Marshall ready to walk away if UFC career isn’t an option
No matter what career path you walk, most people dream of pursuing their craft at the highest level, and Eliot Marshall is no different.
A cast member on Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, the 30-year-old Colorado native came out of the Las Vegas madhouse to post a win over Jules Bruchez at the show’s live finale, following it up with a victory over finalist Vinicius Magalhaes four months later in Montreal. His third trip into the Octagon yielded a third-straight win, with Marshall earning the nod in a split decision over Jason Brilz at UFC 103.
The trio of victories earned Marshall a step up in competition, setting up a date with Vladimir Matyushenko on the initial UFC on Versus event. The savvy veteran would go on to earn a narrow split decision victory, dropping Marshall’s record to a respectable 3-1 through his first four UFC fights.
While Matyushenko would go on to headline the very next Versus show opposite light heavyweight phenom Jon Jones, Marshall was released, his lack of aggression and three straight trips to the judges’ scorecards outweighing his win-loss record.
Marshall put up three-straight wins after being released, including a first-round submission win at the now-infamous Nemesis FC event in the Dominican Republic this past December. When Karlos Vemola was forced to withdraw from his UFC 128 bout with Luiz Cane, Marshall didn’t wait for opportunity to knock; he went to opportunity’s house and introduced himself.
“I told [my management team] to call the UFC right away; not in five minutes, right away,” recalled Marshall, speaking with Heavy.com on Monday afternoon, adding that his pursuit of a return trip to the UFC was aided by the approach he takes to being a fighter.
“I stepped on the scale and I was 227 (pounds), so that was sweet. I’m always training, and I’m always in the gym. I don’t take time off; I take a week off after a fight, then if I need a light day to recover, I’ll take a day off, but I’m always in the gym. That’s my job.”
Though he loves his current job and relishes the opportunity to once again compete on the biggest stage, Marshall has no interest in returning to the regional circuit should the UFC decided once again that they no longer need his services. When that day comes, it will mark the end of his career as a professional fighter, and it’s a decision Marshall is at peace with heading into Saturday’s bout.
“I’m either going to be the champ or they’re going to cut me again. What are you going to do? I’m not even worried about it. If they cut me again, I just move on with my life, take it in a different direction, and if I’m the champ, well then shit, I’m the champ.
“I’m excited for it. There’s going to be now more ups and downs. There’s going to be no more anything; I fight in the UFC or that’s it, and I’m excited for it. I’m excited for however it’s going to roll out; I think I’m going to be the champ, so that’s what I’m really excited for.”
While many maintain a singular mindset and hang onto the dream for as long as they can, the shine of showcasing his skills in regional promotions has faded for Marshall. He was never compensated for his fight with Nemesis FC, and small pay days on local events in Colorado do not make up for the time away from his wife and their one-year-old son.
“I wasn’t at [this point] a year ago, where I’m okay with whatever; I wasn’t there. But now, a year later, I have my son and my family, and I can’t put them through another year of fighting places and not getting paid and things like that.
“My life is going to play out how my life’s going to play out; I have no control over that just like I have no control over what’s going to happen in the cage on Saturday. I can just control what I’m going to do and how I react to whatever happens. That’s all anyone can do. What I was trying to do before was control the UFC, like `hey, don’t cut me,’ and we know where that went.”
He plans to be a different fighter this time around, casting aside hesitation and concerns about being released, a further examples of the shift in mindset Marshall says has come about thanks to his son.
“My son saved my life. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have him. He so young that he doesn’t understand anything, so I couldn’t come home and be depressed and not be paying attention to him because I got cut; he doesn’t care, he just wants his dad. None of this matters to him.
“Maybe some day when he’s older it’ll be cool that his dad fought in the UFC, but right now, he couldn’t care less. Without him, I could see myself sitting around the house being pretty depressed, but I couldn’t do that; we’d just had him and I had to get my shit together. He doesn’t care and he shouldn’t; he’s a year old. All he knows is where’s my food, change my diaper and let’s play.”
Whether Saturday night marks the start of an extended second run inside the Octagon or a one-time return for one of the many men who can call themselves former cast members on The Ultimate Fighter, Marshall ready to push himself to the brink and letting the chips fall where they may.
“I’m gonna give it hell, man. What else can I do? If we see the end of the third round, honestly, they’re going to have to carry me out of the cage I’ll be so tired. I’m going to go give it hell, man, and I’m gonna leave everything in the cage. We’ll see what happens, and the cards fall where the cards fall. What can you do?”
Depending on how they land, Marshall will either return to fight again or take a final bow before returning home and shifting his focus to something else.
This isn’t a Brett Favre retirement either; when he’s out, he’s out, and it’s a decision Marshall is already at peace with.
Now all that’s left is to once again enjoying being a fighter on the biggest stage in the sport, beginning Saturday night in New Jersey.