by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
When the IFL debuted earlier this year it was noted that many of the fighters included on the initial four teams were perhaps known to the hardcore community, but not so much to the general public.
One of the fighters that made the biggest impact and has come to the forefront of the promotion’s top young talent is Rory Markham of the Pat Miletich coached Quad City Silverbacks.
Almost immediately Markham stood out with his impressive 44 second win over Mike Pyle on the IFL’s inaugural show and then followed that up in the Team Tournament Finals with a convincing victory against Tiger Sharks welterweight Brad Blackburn.
With season 2 of the IFL underway Rory looks continue his success this Saturday in Iowa as the Silverbacks take on Renzo Gracie’s New York Pitbulls. MMAWeekly caught up with Markham shortly after finishing his last hard practice during his preparations to take on Luke Stewart.
MMAWeekly: First off Rory, let’s talk about season 1 of the IFL, overall how do you feel about that experience?
Rory Markham: Overall, you talk about a company that treats its fighters well. The great thing was that even though they were a young show, they seemed like veterans right off the bat. It really felt like I was stepping up into the big leagues when I reached that show. They really treated us like professionals and it was good to see how smoothly a big show operates.
MMAWeekly: And you repaid them with your impressive performances in the ring.
Rory Markham: Yeah, I feel I step up and I do a little better when I’m under pressure. I felt like I performed at the best of my abilities and I’m very grateful and thankful that I was able to do it on a national stage.
MMAWeekly: I’m sure it’s easy to perform at a high level knowing that if you don’t coach Miletich will come out of the corner and kick your butt himself right?
Rory Markham: [Laughs] yeah, having Pat as a coach with just how hands-on he is, is amazing. He tells me a gameplan and if I fallow it I have no doubt I will achieve victory.
MMAWeekly: And of course the Silverbacks took the first ever Team Tournament Championships, you have to feel good about that.
Rory Markham: I’ll tell you this…last year, this year, next year, every year following I think we’re going to continue to crush. The team aspect of this sport isn’t completely foreign to me or new. I’ve been fighting for Team MFS [Miletich Fighting Systems] ever since the inception of my career, only now we’re being given an opportunity to compete on a national stage together instead of individually on other shows.
We’re fighting as a team, competing as a team and getting that competitive win as a team together. So now we’re being rewarded for being such a great team. Team Miletich has always been a great, successful team, only now we reap the benefits and rewards as a team.
MMAWeekly: The IFL returned recently with the first installment of season 2. The team that had hardly any changes, the Anacondas, won and the team that overhauled its roster, the Tiger Sharks, lost. You have to feel good seeing that example and knowing that the Silverbacks are almost completely the same as last year.
Rory Markham: [I feel] strongly…you don’t fix what isn’t broken. Every day that passes we become stronger as a team because we’re united. We work out together, all of us in the same room. I look across at the same guys every day and I think that makes us a stronger team. We’re brothers first, teammates second and we’re going to be hard to beat because when you face us you’re trying to beat blood.
MMAWeekly: On Saturday you guys are taking on a team you didn’t face last year, the Pitbulls, what’s the strategy heading into those fights?
Rory Markham: The general gameplan is this; we know they’re going to try to go to the ground with us, that isn’t any mystery, and we’re going to try to keep it standing up. The thing is, our wrestling is going to be too good and we are well-versed in submissions, so it’s going to be a hard night for the Pitbulls all around. We’re ready, all of us, for every fight, we’re all just ready to go.
MMAWeekly: How are you feeling heading into your individual fight?
Rory Markham: All I can say right now is that I’ve prepared for this fight and the next three fights, I’m in excellent shape. I planned on getting in phenomenal shape for this fight because after we win this we’re moving on to November 4th then December 30th, so that’s not a lot of down-time. I’m very scientific about things, I like to peak at the right time and I know I’m going to peak right for this fight. I feel very healthy, explosive, so it’s going to be a rough night for Luke Stewart, I’ll say that much.
MMAWeekly: Heading into the second season you’re one of the most buzzed about fighters on the IFL’s roster. How does it feel to know that you’ve got a lot of fan support behind you heading into season 2?
Rory Markham: I get a smile from ear to ear, it’s unbelievable to hear it and it makes me just want to train harder. It’s a very surreal situation for me. I can say this much, Pat has always pushed us to test our limits and before the Mike Pyle fight he said, “you want to achieve great things you have to take a risk and trust me, if you take that risk and fight to the best of your abilities you’re going to beat this kid,” and I take every fight like that.
It’s a great place to be. I can perform to the best of my abilities and now I have a fan base to watch it. It’s awesome, that’s why I train the last few years, to have an audience and it’s amazing.
MMAWeekly: Speaking of Pat, he’s returning to action for the first time in four years to take on Renzo Gracie in a superfight on the same card. How are you feeling about Pat’s return?
Rory Markham: That guy’s in shape right now. I feel so confident in Pat for his fight against Renzo. This is the first time I’ve been able to train with Pat as a peer and not just the teacher/student scenario and it’s amazing to see how tough he was back in the day and how tough he is today.
Three years ago I didn’t get the privileged of training with him when he was fighting, so doing now is an honor. I look across the room and the intensity on his face is at an all-time high. The last few years he’s been in the room and been staying in shape and has just been waiting to peak for a fight and now he’s peaking for a fight and is performing like he was in his prime.
MMAWeekly: It should be an interesting reversal of roles being able to be in the corner for him for a change.
Rory Markham: I was thinking about this morning. Sometimes I still step back and think about how this guy is one of my idols and is now like my big brother and now I’m going to be able to watch a legend at work that night. It’s going to be a cool night and I’m going to be part of history on the 23rd.
MMAWeekly: Thanks as always Rory for taking time out of your schedule for us. Is there anything you like to say as we close out the interview?
Rory Markham: I’d like to thank Joel Gold, Fairtex, and Monte Cox. I’d also like to thank all my fans and especially my mother whose always stayed behind me, she always believed in me, so a big thanks to my mom. And thanks to Rich Sumner, who has helped me get through a lot of hard times.