Even with 40 professional fights in 10+ years as a mixed martial artist, Nate Marquardt is not even close to thinking about retirement as one goal still eludes him: the UFC Middleweight Championship.
"My goal is to win the title. If that happens sooner than later...I'm not going to want to just quit," Marquardt explained. "No matter what, I’m gonna be fighting into my late 30s or as long as my body can go."
That body will be main eventing this Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 22 card against Rousimar Palhares in Austin, TX, in a fight that will could help determine who gets the next shot at the gold currently held by Anderson Silva.
Marquardt knows he has some work ahead of him to beat Palhares (11-2), who enters Wednesday on a three-fight win streak but was suspended for three months due to holding onto a submission after Tomasz Drwal tapped out in their UFC 111 bout.
"He’s physically strong and very tenacious when he goes for submissions. He'll give up his position to attack something and that makes him very dangerous," Marquardt explained. "He treats this as a real fight, not a sport fight. He's not out there fighting for points necessarily. He could come out and do just that, but I’m not going to give him the chance."
Making Another Run
The 31-year-old Marquardt may be young in age, but is a grizzled veteran with three Pancrase middleweight titles, joining the UFC in August 2005.
After beginning his Octagon career with four straight wins, Marquardt (29-9-2) got his first title shot in July 2007 and was promptly taken apart by Silva by 1st round TKO at UFC 73. The Wyoming native then won four of his next five fights -- including a highlight reel KO of Demian Maia at UFC 102 -- to earn a No. 1 contender's match against Chael Sonnen in February.
While many saw Marquardt as a favorite at UFC 109, he didn't perform as such and was dominated by Sonnen's takedowns, wrestling and ground and pound in a unanimous decision defeat. Sonnen went on to face Silva for the title in one of the year's best fights while Marquardt has been patiently waiting since that February night to avenge his loss.
"To me, the best thing to do is to figure out why (the loss) happened and fix it. Once you fix the problem, that makes you that much better of a fighter," Marquardt said. "It gives you more confidence going into your next fight. That’s what we’ve done and I feel great right now."
Marquardt said some of the things he took away from the Sonnen defeat was adapting better takedown defense which he'll need against Palhares, a BJJ black belt with a 73% win by submission rate.
"The main thing for me is that I follow my game plan. I've prepared to fight him a certain way and I need to go out there and fight him that way. That's what I did wrong against Chael," he said.
Marquardt believes that a win over Palhares and another victory against a Top 10 opponent would put him back in line for a title shot, especially if Silva or Sonnen suffers an injury before their early 2011 rematch.
The Big Screen and Social Media
Marquardt has adopted the UFC's strong suggestion of having an active Twitter account and really took it to heart, attaining over 16,000 followers and using the medium to do giveaways and interact with his fans on a daily basis.
He also maintains an active presence on his website in which the main centerpiece is a blog with daily pictures, updates and musings from his life. In the past few weeks, he's shown his fans everything from training photos to the new custom paint job he's going with on his car.
"I think it’s helped my popularity, so it helps me and my sponsors. For a few minutes a day that I spend making a post and replying to fans, it’s well worth it. It's free advertising for my sponsors and me and it's very easy," he said.
His social networking will definitely play a big part in promoting his role in the upcoming action movie Warrior. The film stars Nick Nolte and centers around an MMA tournament his son is competing in. Filmed in Pittsburgh, the movie is set for a 2011 release.
But don't expect Marquardt to depart the UFC for Hollywood anytime soon. He was just happy to be able to join the Screen Actors Guild and get the insurance that came along with it.
"I didn't realize how big of an opportunity (Warrior) was. It's going to be a great movie," Marquardt said. "I was in Pittsburgh for five weeks and was able to train every day. I did one other movie and it was one day in and out. (For future movies), we'll just take it on a case-by-case basis."
Make no mistake; Marquardt's fight this Wednesday isn't a step toward putting an Oscar on his mantle but rather attaining another shiny piece of gold. one that also fits great around the waist.