by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
During the first two seasons of the International Fight League there were few fighters as successful as Quad Cities Silverbacks’ welterweight Rory Markham.

Sporting a 4-1 record in the promotion (12-3 overall), it appeared he would continue to be one of his team’s key factors towards three-peating as IFL Champions… then injuries struck.

Only able to participate in two of the Silverbacks’ team battles, Markham was able to overcome injuries to win both of his bouts, but he was unable to help the team’s season as they fell short of their goal, losing in the IFL Finals to the New York Pitbulls. A match-up he missed due to a broken hand.

Four months after his last bout, 100% healthy and ready to get his career back in full swing, Markham makes his return in a featured bout at the promotion’s individual Grand Prix Finals on Saturday, Dec. 29 at the Mohegan Sun.

“I’ve been training, trying to stay sharp, pretty much working on my wrestling, my ground and trying to be more well-rounded,” he said of his time off. “Pat’s (Miletich) always been kind of saying to me that in order to get to the next level, that’s what it’s going to take, being as well-versed in all those other areas of my game.

“My stand-up is pretty sharp. It could always get better, but I just needed to fill my gaps. If I can decide where the fight goes with my wrestling I think that’s really going to be the deal breaker.”

Of course, should all else fail, there is always his bread and butter, the striking game.

“I’m always going to go for the knockout and give the fans what they want,” exclaimed Markham. “I aim to do that because I appreciate the entertainment value in our product, and I don’t like to see a fan go home and say they had a boring night.

“If anything, I think I can give that excitement factor, so I’m always going to go for that knockout. If I get taken out of my game plan, I want to make sure that I have the weapons to at least nullify my opponent’s game.”

As Markham points out, it’s the work he’s put into preparing for this fight that makes the opposition not much of a concern for him on Saturday night.

“To be honest, I don’t know much about my new guy, but I can say this much, I’ve been training for this as if I were taking a title fight,” he said. “In the back of my head, I convinced myself that either (Delson) Heleno or (Jay) Hieron was going to go out with injury and that I was going to slip in there.

“So that kind of fueled my training, is that I kept convincing myself that I had to get moving so I could get a shot at a title. I love these (training) camps because I truly feel I can step into the ring a better fighter.”

Much of the reason for Markham’s excitement has to do with the fact that he’s actually healthy enough to fight again after an injury-plagued 2007 season.

He feels that it’s because of the break-neck schedule the IFL had previously employed that caused the high injury rates for many fighters this season, and the changes the promotion is due to make next year is something that he is very much anticipating.

“You just kind of have to roll with it,” stated Markham. “Especially with the IFL in the previous year with the frequency of fights, injuries you could see were a problem all across the board.

“I think now with the new format, having three or four fights a year, which is on par with other MMA organizations is the correct adjustment, by making us fight less frequently. It’s going to help the longevity for all of us across the board.”

Which leads to his reassertion that even with some of the turmoil the promotion has experienced lately, he will be back with them in 2008.

“I’ve got one more year on my contract,” said Markham. “I like the fact that I’ve gotten in on the ground (floor). I like that I’ve been in since the inaugural event, since the inception of the IFL. I was in it with Pat and our original Silverbacks team.

“So, I would love to get my price up and fight hard in ’08 and make some cash, and hope it could be with the IFL, because I like the idea of being in a company that’s growing up.”

But before then, Markham has his scheduled fight on Dec. 29 to get through first, and it’s a fight he feels will be one for the fans.

“To the fans, as always, I appreciate the support,” he stated. “I love meeting every individual that appreciates my fights, and Dec. 29 is going to be no different. I’m going to go out there and put on a show for the fans; with me at least I can guarantee they will get their money’s worth.

“We’ll be on HDNet, live from the Mohegan Sun, it’s a great venue and I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house. I’d like to thank my sponsors Cytosport, Tapout, Fairtex, Sandy Bowman and Ecko.”