UFC Live headliners have taken different paths towards same destination
Next weekend in Pittsburgh, Nate Marquardt and Rick Story will headline the UFC’s fourth show on the Versus network. The welterweight battle will leave one of the two combatants on the brink of title contention in the 170 pound ranks.
While it is a position both would like to be in, they’ve taken very different routes to reach the point they’re at now.
Much like Kenny Florian last week in Vancouver, this fight for Marquardt will be his first in a new division after a lengthy career as a contender in a higher weight class. The long-time middleweight is making the move to the 170 pound ranks, and while some are wondering if it’s because he feels out of options at middleweight, Marquardt says the switch to welterweight just feels like a more natural fit.
“For me it was about how I felt. For my last fight, I was very light and I felt the best I’d felt in years, probably since before I was fighting in the UFC. I think it’s just more of a natural weight for me, and my body operates better with less weight on it, so for me it’s just about performance.
“I feel I’m going to perform better at a lighter weight, regardless of if I’m fighting at 185 or 170. I think it’s more natural for me,” Marquardt explained on Tuesday’s media conference call for the June 26 event. He also explained that he views this move as a permanent one.
While there are middleweight fights being mentioned that certainly pique his interest, he believes fighting at welterweight makes the most sense, especially since he shares similar physical characteristics to the top fighter in the division, long-time friend and training partner Georges St. Pierre.
“A lot of people are asking about a fight with Bisping. That kind of stuff I would consider, but at the same time, I’m going to keep my weight where its at right now. I feel way better at this weight. My cardio is excellent, I feel 100%. I can train 100% every day; I feel like an animal. I see this as a permanent move.
“Size-wise, I’m about the same size as Georges, and strength-wise, I felt strong at ’85 and I haven’t lost any strength.”
Story’s journey to the brink of title contention is much different from that of his opponent. While Marquardt’s protected stay in the upper echelon of the middleweight ranks makes him an instant contender now that he’s moved to welterweight, Story has clawed and scratched his way to this point.
The 26-year-old Washington native has put together a six-fight winning streak. He earned the biggest win of his career just three weeks ago, scoring a unanimous decision victory over former title contender Thiago Alves at UFC 130, and sees this fight as another opportunity to prove to people that he deserves to be considered as one of the top welterweights in the world.
Though plenty of people were surprised at the quick turnaround, Story says it was something they asked for an a chance he couldn’t pass up.
“We requested for a fight quick. Maybe not so quick,” laughed Story Tuesday afternoon. “But with the opportunity of Anthony Johnson dropping out, I like fighting frequently, so we jumped all over the opportunity to fill in for Johnson backing out.
“My coach, Pat White, we talked about it. Fighting in the past, to get my opportunity to get to the UFC, I was fighting every month, and that was the best I’ve ever performed is when I could fight every month, just because I was building off my last performance and keeping the momentum going. With this opportunity to fight so soon, we jumped all over it.
“I just look at it as an opportunity. He (White) asked me, because he’s also my manager too, but he asked me if I wanted to do it, and I was like, `Yeah, let’s do it.’ No hesitation.”
Along with a similar aim – title contention – Marquardt and Story share a similar view on were victory in Pittsburgh will put them in regard to that end.
“I guess it would put me at the top,” answered Marquardt when asked where a win next Saturday night would leave him. “Rick’s a very tough guy; he just beat Alves who is a former world title contender. I’m just excited for the opportunity. Everybody in the UFC is tough. It’s all about how you perform, and as long as I go out and do a great performance, I’ll be at the top.”
The more reserved and less seasoned of the two, Story was a little more measured and tentative with his response to the same question.
“I think that all depends on how the win would go. Maybe one more fight if it’s a decision, but if it’s a finish, I don’t know. A finish over an opponent like Nate would probably put me in a position where I deserve the shot more.”
Though the desired destination is the same, Story and Marquardt have taken very different paths to get to this point.
Next weekend, one of them will stay on course towards tittle contention, the other forced to detour back into the depth of the welterweight division.