by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
This past year, Colorado’s Ring of Fire promotion has helped to usher some of the region’s top talent to the national mixed martial arts stage. Fighters such as Luke Caudillo, Alvin Robinson and Donald Cerrone have all used the promotion to springboard themselves to the next level.

Next on the list of Colorado fighters headed to the big time could very well be light heavyweight Eliot Marshall.

A Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he has started his career off strong, going undefeated in five bouts since debuting in MMA early last year, capturing the Ring of Fire 205-pound divisional championship in the process.

At this Saturday’s Ring of Fire event in Broomfield, Colorado, Marshall looks to take that next step up as he faces Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Rob MacDonald in a classic match-up of grappler versus striker. This is a bout that was postponed from earlier this year due an injury suffered by Marshall.

“I’m feeling great,” exclaimed the champion of his health heading into Saturday’s fight. “I’m a hundred percent healthy, no side effects at all, and I’m ready to go.”

As Marshall explains, he was unhappy to have missed the original September date for his fight against MacDonald, but that has been replaced by the anticipation of finally getting things set for this Saturday.

“I felt bad for Rob, because he was training hard (for the original fight date),” he said. “Rob’s a nice guy. I like him, but we’re going to have to fight on (Dec. 1) and I’m ready to go.”

Facing off against a UFC veteran like MacDonald represents a chance for Marshall to show that he deserves his shot at the next level. Unlike others who may be intimidated by moving up in competition, he is confident that he’s done what’s needed to make this a successful step up.

“It’s a great opportunity, because he’s fought in the UFC and he’s a tough guy, but I get to train with tough guys all the time,” explained Marshall. “I go down to Albuquerque and train with Rashad (Evans), Keith (Jardine) and Nate (Marquardt), so this is just going to be a test in front of a lot of people, when it comes down to it.

“He’s a tough guy, well-rounded, and I feel I’m a tough guy and well-rounded. So, wherever it goes, it goes. I’m going to exploit any opening (I can). He’s got to open the door somewhere.”

Even though his skill set continues to grow and he becomes better-rounded, Marshall knows where his bread and butter lays and where he can best take advantage of MacDonald’s weaknesses.

“I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. I always want to be on the ground,” he commented.

“I’ve been training with Duane Ludwig every day, so (my striking) is getting better. So I’m not afraid or nervous to stand; I’m ready to do it. But my game plan is always going to be to get the guy on the ground.”

The question was then posed to Marshall if he feels that if things should go well against MacDonald, it will be the springboard to bigger opportunities next year.

“When that step up comes, it will come. I’m in no rush,” he admitted. “The longer it takes me to get there, the longer I’m going to stay there (when I get there).

“I want to fight outside the Ring of Fire a little bit, see what it’s like to fight on the road and not be the hometown boy. I feel that’s going to be an important next step for me.”

His patience comes from the knowledge that he is building his career the right way, with the right people around him that allow him to progress naturally and never be unprepared for a fight.

“I feel like I’m a different fighter than when I first started, which is good,” reflected Marshall. “You always want to be moving forward and progressing. Greg Jackson has helped me out a lot and I feel like I’ve taken the right steps forward.

“I want to keep fighting tough guys. I don’t want a nice, padded record because I fought a lot of tomato cans. I want to fight tough guys. There’s no reason not to, there’s no reason to go backwards or stay still.”

Entering into his third year of fight, Eliot Marshall could be on his way to the next level of MMA.

In a light heavyweight division in need of consistent, young talent, he could very well be the shot in the arm it needs. But first, there is the task at hand this Saturday in Broomfield against MacDonald in what could be one of Ring of Fire’s top bouts of the year.

“First off, as always, I’d like to thank my wife Renee; my trainers, Amal Easton, Duane Ludwig and Greg Jackson,” concluded Marshall. “(Thanks) all the guys that I train with everywhere, down in Albuquerque and in Colorado; and my sponsors: Grappler’s Quest, Tapout, Hard Nutrition and On the Mat.

“Fans, come out Dec. 1, it’s going to be a great show. Rob McDonald and I are going to have a great fight. It’s going to be exciting at the Broomfield Event Center, Ring of Fire 31 “Undisputed,” so we’ll see you there and we’ll have some fun.”