Nate Marquardt came away empty handed in his attempt to wrest the UFC middleweight belt from around Anderson Silva’s waist at UFC 73 in 2007.
He used that faltering to refocus his game. Despite a controversial split decision loss to Thales Leites at UFC 85, he then reeled off an impressive string of knockout wins over Martin Kampmann, Wilson Gouveia, and Demian Maia.
Marquardt was right back in line for another shot at his ultimate goal, the UFC middleweight championship, but had it plucked from his grasp at UFC 109 by Chael Sonnen.
Rebounding with a first-round destruction of Rousimar Palhares in September, Marquardt finds himself one fight away from that coveted return shot at the gold. He faces Yushin Okami in Saturday’s UFC 122 main event in Oberhausen, Germany.
He doesn’t value the championship anymore than he ever has because of stumbling – he’s always placed the highest value on attaining the title – but his missteps have added fuel to the flame.
“When I lost to Chael, I kind of realized that I had lost a little bit of my fire to train and just go out and do my best because my dream is to be the champion. I think (losing to Sonnen) reignited my fire,” Marquardt said at Thursday’s UFC 122 prefight press conference in Germany.
“I got that now, that’s how I can know I’m gonna go out and perform my best (against Okami).”
Should he not falter against Okami, he’s been promised the winner of the UFC 126 title fight between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort. Having lost to him in 2007, Marquardt wouldn’t mind if the shot came against Silva, but the focus of his objective doesn’t waver.
“Honestly, I don’t care. My dream is to be the champion. I have a very tough opponent in front of me and that’s what I’m focused on,” he responded when asked whom he would rather face.
With the Silva-Belfort fight nearly three months away, Marquardt knows that he’ll likely be on the sidelines for some time before that shot comes, should it be his. Again, he doesn’t falter.
“As soon as the winner of that can fight, that would be my preference (for a title shot). If I have to wait, that’s fine too,” he stated confidently. “I have enough experience that if I take a six to eight month layoff between fights, I still train all year round, I’ll be in shape.”
First, he’ll zero in on Okami at UFC 122 on Saturday night.