Nate Marquardt is the quintessential veteran—reliable, well-rounded and searching for a late career surge.
“The Great” faces off with rising welterweight Rick Story, who replaces Anthony Johnson on three weeks notice—less than a month removed from a unanimous decision win against Thiago Alves—at UFC on Versus 4 from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this Sunday night.
10-4 in his six-year Octagon career, Marquardt is a former middleweight title challenger. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter spent no time in the sauna to make the 185-pound mark in recent outings. Enter his first foray into welterweight at 32-years-old.
“I feel like an animal. I feel like I'm 20-years-old,” he told ESPN’s Inside the Cage Radio. “This is a new thing for me, fighting at 170, so it's definitely exciting and gonna keep it fresh."
What animal will Marquardt resemble most in the cage versus Story?
“Mountain lion,” he said, noting the high altitude at Grudge Training Center in Wheatridge, Colorado where he’s been under the watchful eye of coach Trevor Wittman.
Wittman later revealed to Bleacher Report the key for Marquardt against an up-and-comer like Story is veteran instinct: the ability to build on the framework of a basic game plan with improvisational skills. Adaptability in both the physical and mental elements of the sport leads Wittman to believe Marquardt would have excelled as a Roman gladiator. Still, the downfall of a veteran can be over thinking, so Wittman simply wants his fighter to do what his job description demands—fight.
"Some of these younger guys, you need to get them to go out there and fight and get them to make better decisions. Nate's got so much muscle memory and so much experience, sometimes he can go out there and over think a fight,” said Wittman. “A guy with veteran skills, they can also make decisions on the job and if they do that, they usually do really good."
Marquardt agrees his 12 years of experience will overwhelm the Washington native. He expects a hard-fought contest though because “Horror” is a straightforward grinder high on a six-fight win streak.
“The thing is he just doesn't have my experience and he's never fought a guy like me. I'm gonna take it to him and dominate this fight,” said Marquardt. “For sure, it's not necessarily that I was holding back, [but] you've seen glimpses of what I can do in the past. I expect nothing less in the future."
Victory versus Story is step one on the road to a title shot at 170-pounds. The division’s current kingpin, Georges St. Pierre, a training partner of Marquardt at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, pushed the divisional drop for the former King of Pancrase. It was a relief for Wittman and his team, who felt Marquardt’s reluctance to cross paths with “Rush” was potentially inhibiting peak performances at a more natural weight class.
Talk of facing a training partner—champion or not—is not on either’s mind at the moment. Just Story. Despite the short notice, Marquardt and Wittman expect a top-10 welterweight ready to fight on the opposite end of the cage when the bell rings.
"That's actually been one of our down points with our fight career with Nate. Our two last losses were Chael Sonnen and [Yushin] Okami. Both of those fights we faced left-handers who were pressure fighters. To me, on paper, I think this is a tougher fight for us [than Johnson],” concluded Wittman. “It's one of those things, we like to overcome those situations we've had in the past. It makes it a more intriguing fight."
Danny Acosta is the lead writer at FIGHT! Magazine. Marquardt interview was conducted by Acosta along with Greg DeLong on ESPN's Inside the Cage 1450a.m. Reno. Follow him on twitter.com/acostaislegend