by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
At this upcoming Friday’s IFL World Team Tournament Finals at the Mohegan Sun, the fight that could very well be the sleeper fight of the night could be the one pitting Chris Wilson of the Matt Lindland-trained Portland Wolf Pack taking on Pat Mieltich student Rory Markham of the Quad City Silverbacks.

Both fighters have really come a long way over the past year and are capable of imposing themselves anywhere the fight goes. For Rory this event is going to be even more special because he has an opportunity, along with teammate Bart Palaszewski, to become first fighters to go 5-0 in the organization.

Recently Markham spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss the fight, his team, and thoughts on the IFL’s expansion to even more teams in 2007.

MMAWeekly: First off Rory, tell us your thoughts on this coming Friday’s IFL event as your team, the Quad City Silverbacks take on the Portland Wolf Pack for the World Team Title.

Rory Markham: It’s kind of a little bit bigger deal, it’s the Championships, we’re going against a good team and it should be good. It’s nothing too different; it’s just different looking opponents and a little more is on the line.

MMAWeekly: What about your opponent Chris Wilson?

Rory Markham: I saw his fight against Jay Hieron. Hopefully we’re going to stand in there and bang and have a good time…you know, nice ‘n bruised up for New Year’s.

MMAWeekly: One of Chris’ advantages he likes to use in his fights is his long reach. Is this something you’ve worked on specifically for this fight?

Rory Markham: I’ve anticipated that being an issue, so in training we’ve really tried to form a strategy around that. Inside or outside that’s the idea. I’m in great shape, and when I’m in great shape I can do a lot of movement, so I’m really looking to push the pace on him and see if he can keep up.

MMAWeekly: How do you feel about your team’s overall chances against the Wolf Pack on Friday?

Rory Markham: I think our chances are great. We come from a long lineage of champions, the Miletich Fighting Systems; this is just a natural progression. Not only that, Pat has really gotten us together as a team – as he always does and always had – and we’re raring to go. This is a great peak week and everyone seems to be firing on all cylinders, so everyone just wants to fight. That’s how hard training’s been, fighting is going to be a luxury by the end of all this training.

MMAWeekly: This year you went from being a Midwest underground fan favorite to being one of the most recognizable fighters in the IFL. What are your thoughts on 2006?

Rory Markham: I think it’s been a good year for me. Things are starting to click and I haven’t taken a step back in any way. Any exposure I’ve gotten I’ve taken it and used it as fuel, and hopefully I’ll just keep progressing forward and in the next couple years to come I’ll be one of the best guys out there.

MMAWeekly: Having spent this whole year with the IFL, how do you feel your time in the promotion has been?

Rory Markham: It’s great. It’s an amazing experience. I don’t think you can’t find one fighter that hasn’t said the same [about the IFL]. Everyone’s well taken care of, they treat us like professionals, they have a professional team behind their organization and it’s a fun to be a part of.

It’s a learning experience too, I’m kind of young in this sport and coming from all the small shows and to finally step on the big stage and for a new promotion they haven’t even had one hiccup. It’s a well-oiled machine and for good reason. There’s a lot of good people behind it, and with good people’s going to bring good company. So I’m happy to work for them.

MMAWeekly: How about the Silverbacks, have you noticed any difference in the team this season as compared to last?

Rory Markham: It’s hard to say that we’ve gotten any tighter, but we kind of have a little bit. We all fight together on a consistent basis and it’s funny, we’ve started to look to each other, whereas before one guy would have a fight and now we all have fights and we know where everyone is at.

[For example] e and my teammate Mike C. know each other’s weight; everything’s clicking at the right time for everybody. It’s like, “[Ben] Rothwell’s looking good, he’s ready… [Ryan] McGivern, boom – he’s ready,” you just start to see the little nuances and subtleties that make a team. We’ve become an even closer family now that we have the IFL to bond us.

MMAWeekly: Now that we’re about a week away from a new year, have you set any goals for yourself for 2007?

Rory Markham: Honestly, to be quite honest, my goal is to stay healthy throughout the whole season. This is the one thing, it is fighting, if there’s room for injury, my goal is to stay healthy for every fight so I can fight ‘em all and have a great year.

MMAWeekly: You’ve had to fight a total five fights spread across two seasons in the IFL this past year. With the company’s expansion you may end up fighting that much – even perhaps more – in just one season next year, what are your thoughts on that possibility?

Rory Markham: We’ll see. One year at a time. I’ve never been a big fan of fighting seven times a year. I’m more a three or four times a year kind of guy, it gives me room to learn and rest, so we’ll see. We’ll definitely have to see if those upcoming years, if they’re going to get more bracketing, we’ll have to take it each fight at a time, like I take every fight.

MMAWeekly: When we spoke to your teammate Bart Palaszewski he mentioned how he’d like to get an IFL Championship Ring for each finger and maybe a couple for his toes, do you feel the same?

Rory Markham: Absolutely…we’ve already got our ring sizes and we’re ready to go. Our hands feeling kind of empty right now. [Laughs]

MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time as always Rory. Is there anything you’d like to say as we close the interview out?

Rory Markham: To the fans, first I’d just like to say I’m going to be out there fighting with my heart and they can be guaranteed 100% that I’m not going to leave the ring without giving it my all. They should look for a knockout, because I’m thankful to be blessed with that kind of power and hopefully everything comes together on the 29th.

I’d like to thank my sponsors…Joel Gold, Mike Bruno at Fairtex…I’d like to thank my whole team…Rich Sumner…my mom as always…Pat Miletich for really helping me out…Monte Cox, my manager…the IFL for giving me this amazing opportunity, and God…Merry Christmas to everyone out there.