by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com (Photo by April Pishna)

“Some people have this saying, I think it’s from Carlson Gracie, “You<br /> hit him once and he’s a brown belt

by April Pishna – PishnaPhoto.com)


Thales Leites is avoiding black cats and walking under ladders this week. He is
scheduled to face Nathan
Saturday night in London at UFC 85, a bout that has been in the
works for more than a year and a half. But due to issues regarding attaining a
visa and injuries, both previously scheduled dates for this fight have fallen


Mere days
away, it looks as if this time Marquardt vs. Leites will finally happen,
pitting two of the top middleweights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship
against each other.


Leites has
a strong background in competitive jiu-jitsu and enters the Octagon at the O2
Arena with a 12-1 professional record in mixed martial arts. His only loss in
the UFC was in his promotional debut, dropping a decision to Martin Kampmann.
He has since won three straight.


The only
seven-time King of Pancrase in Japan and with more than 30 professional bouts
to his credit, Marquardt has gone 5-1 in the UFC, his only misstep being a TKO
loss to current middleweight champion Anderson Silva.


With this
fight having been planned for such a long time and with Leites’ pedigree,
Marquardt has taken this fight very seriously. He trained with his usual world-class
caliber of training partners under the guidance of premier trainer Greg
Jackson, but also added a new name to the mix in Roger Huerta.


“I got
Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Joey Villasenor; then we also got Georges St.
Pierre that came up here, Dave Loiseau and Roger Huerta,” said Marquardt in a
recent interview with MMAWeekly.com.


Many of his
training partners also had fights around the same time period as him. Rashad
Evans was initially scheduled to fight on the same UFC 85 event as Marquardt
before his bout fell through. Keith Jardine recently lost at the hands of
Wanderlei Silva at UFC 84 in Las Vegas, Shane Carwin scored a quick knockout of
Christian Wellisch on that same event, and Joey Villasenor scored a win over
Phil Baron at CBS-EliteXC Saturday Night Fights.


The timing
of his teammates bouts is great to help peak his training cycle, and Marquardt
also indicated that the wins and the losses help to keep him focused.


“Going out there
and watching Shane knock his guy out is going to give me confidence,” said the
Lander, Wyoming native, “and, at the same time, seeing what happened to Keith
is going to remind me to keep my focus and remind me what’s at stake, what the
other guy’s going to be trying to do to me.”


Focus, or
his mental preparation and toughness, is something that Marquardt places great
importance on. He feels it is one of the key factors in why he lost his chance
to capture the title belt from around Anderson Silva’s waist.


“I should
have won that fight. I made some mistakes and mentally I wasn’t there like I
should have been. I know I can beat that guy and I know that I’ll be the champ
eventually. That’s my goal is to get a rematch with Anderson,” he stated.


“I guess
that’s been my strength, why I am a champion, because I’m never going to accept
defeat. I’m never going to accept people saying that someone is better than me.
I feel I’m the best and I have to go out there and prove it. And if I get
beaten, that doesn’t mean that the guy is better than me, it just means that I
made mistakes that I need to fix.”


That mental
toughness is something that Marquardt plans on bringing into the fight with
Leites, who he knows is going to be a difficult test for him. Leites’ renown in
competitive grappling leads to the inevitable questions about Marquardt’s
ground game, which is solid considering that he himself is black belt in


difference, to Marquardt, is the application of jiu-jitsu skills to MMA, which
is something that comes from experience.


people have this saying. I think it’s from Carlson Gracie. ‘You hit him once
and he’s a brown belt. You hit him twice and he’s a purple belt. You hit him again
he’s a blue belt.’ That’s something you’ve got to get used to. You have to work
that into your game,” he explained. “Thales has been doing MMA long enough that
he’s started that. He’s not just a pure jiu-jitsu guy, but I have a lot more
experience in that area.”


That’s not
to say that he is overlooking Leites. He has a lot of respect for the Brazilian
fighter and puts a lot of importance on winning this fight, believing a victory
puts him right back at the top of the Anderson Silva sweepstakes.


“I feel
that I’ll be the No. 1 contender,” said Marquardt about winning the fight.
“Does that mean that I’ll get a title shot right away? Not necessarily, but…
that should put me right at the No. 1 contender.”


Although he
is expecting victory, he’s still not tipping his hand as to his game plan.


“Look for
an exciting fight,” said Marquardt. “I’m going to go out and hit him with
everything I have. I’m going to try and knock him out. He’s a tough guy, but I
think I can do it.”