I recently wrote a pretty lengthy article when it comes to the UFC's consistently poor job of handling fighters who have been found using PEDs. When it comes to Nate Marquardt, though, saying that he has a history of PED use is a disservice to his long list of transgressions.
Ever since he arrived in the UFC, Nate Marquardt has had difficulty staying out of trouble. However, as we have seen on several occasions now, character and past cheating does not enter into the equation when it comes to Zuffa's matchmaking and roster moves. The result is Nate Marquardt, whose offenses have been escalating for almost ten years now, getting a likely title shot in his first fight in Strikeforce.
Make no mistake, Nate Marquardt is a great fighter. He is seriously talented, and has plenty of knockouts and submissions to his credit. Add to that how he is moving from middleweight down to welterweight and he is likely to have a solid size advantage over almost any of his future opponents.
Marquardt, in all likelihood, is the best fighter in the Strikeforce welterweight division and (if you are like me and find Gilbert Melendez to be overrated) arguably the best fighter in Strikeforce. Period. There is no way around that and it has to be considered.
The problem is that Zuffa has now sent a clear message that it is supremely uncaring about fighters' behavior.
As stated, Marquardt has more than one incident on his permanent record. After losing a fight with Ricardo Almeida under the Pancrase organization, Marquardt took heat for taking a Paul Daley-style swipe at Almeida. His explanation was that he believed Almeida held onto the choke longer than he should have after tapping (the referee, in fact, just had difficulty separating them).
That, on its own, is not really all that bad and could technically be chalked up as a simple mistake, and did not do any serious damage to his career track. A year and a bit later, he left Pancrase and began fighting for the UFC. After his UFC debut against Ivan Salaverry, Marquardt tested positive for anabolic steroids.
The NSAC gave him a slap on the wrist (a five-month suspension) and let him go back about his business. That resulted in a pair of wins, followed by a loss to Thales Leites at UFC 85 in 2008, largely because of points lost for repeated illegal strikes.
While Marquardt was generally the superior fighter, he ultimately lost the fight due to two point deductions. The first for kneeing a downed opponent in the head, followed by another for elbowing Leites in the back of the head.
While most fighters would be at least slightly apologetic, Marquardt channeled his inner Josh Barnett, saying he had done nothing wrong, demanding a rematch and crying that Leites was afraid to fight him again.
Time passed and Marquardt avoided trouble for a while. This did not last, though.
After five wins with losses to Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami peppered in, Marquardt was slated to headline UFC on Versus 4 against fast-rising prospect Rick Story. Marquardt pulled out of the fight due to elevated levels of testosterone the day before the event. Dana White, as should be expected, flew into a rage and publicly booted Marquardt from the promotion.
Marquardt later explained that the reason for this was because he was using testosterone replacement therapy (which fans speculate was required due to Marquardt's past steroid use) and received a dose too close to fight time. This resulted in levels above those stipulated by the athletic commission overseeing the fight. Though his testosterone levels leveld out by fight time, by that point it was too late.
Marquardt can be judged for any of the above transgressions by fans, but Zuffa has been nothing but forgiving. After all that, Marquardt got signed to Strikeforce after exactly zero fights elsewhere (he was signed with the UK fight promotion BAMMA but never actually fought with the promotion).
Marquardt is scheduled to face Tyron Woodley in what is likely a fight to decide who will fill the presently vacant spot as champion of the Strikeforce welterweight division (previous champion Nick Diaz left the promotion to join the UFC). Think about that.
Nate Marquardt, after ruining a main event, using steroids and multiple faux pas in the cage, is getting his first title fight since being knocked out by Anderson Silva in 2007. Consider fighters like Gerald Harris and Thales Leites who were ejected from the UFC with winning records (Harris at 3-1, and Leites at 5-3) for putting on some (emphasis on some) boring fights and you simply have to question where the UFC's priorities are.
Once again, there is no question here about Marquardt's skills. He was a top-10 middleweight for years and is probably a top-10 welterweight right now. Regardless, he is almost receiving a promotion after what should have been fireable offense (and make no mistake, he was not really fired).
While the UFC punishes fighters frequently for all manners of offenses, it is high time to go after somebody that deserves it. When this will happen remains a mystery but one thing is sure: it apparently takes a stronger offense than sabotaging a card or violating PED rules for the UFC to take action.
Even though UFC president Dana White was trying to send a message by cutting Marquardt, bringing him back to fight for a title speaks a lot louder than any of the punishments (or lack thereof) he has received.
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