by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
In every sport, there are athletes that claim their allegiance to one organization or another, but in this day and age of free agency and free money, the likes of a John Elway, who spent his entire Hall of Fame career quarterbacking the Denver Broncos, are the exception, not the rule.

The same can be said for mixed martial arts as it grows out of its infancy. But again, there are exceptions to the rule. One such exception is World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight champion Doug “Rhino” Marshall.

He may not command the attention of a Chuck Liddell, Frank Shamrock or Tito Ortiz, but he has steadily built a respectable career… and he’s done it all within the confines of the WEC cage.

Dating back to WEC 8 in October of 2003 – well before the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s parent company, Zuffa, LLC, purchased the company – Marshall has been looking for the big KD.

He has amassed a 7-2 professional record fighting for co-general managers Reed Harris and Scott Adams, and win or lose, not once has he had a fight go the distance. Marshall doesn’t plan on ending that streak when he steps into the cage to defend his belt against U.S. Marine Corps officer Brian Stann on March 26.

“I haven’t had many fights that have gotten out of the first round and I don’t think Brian has had any fights that have gotten out of the first round,” Marshall told MMAWeekly.com. “We’re both intent to get in there and get after it, but at the same time, I realize this is a five five-minute round championship fight. I’m going to have the gas to go. It could get out of the first round.”

He’s not taking anything for granted though. In fact, despite being the champ, Marshall feels like the spotlight… his spotlight… is shining brighter on his challenger than it is on him.

“Brian’s got a lot of publicity and media following and stuff and I’m looking to take that away from him and put the spotlight back on me, back where the spotlight should be, on the champion,” he stated indignantly. “Everybody thinks he’s the one that’s going to beat the Rhino, I’m not thinking so. I just don’t think it’s his time. I think he’s had enough spotlight and I’m looking forward to taking that spotlight away.”

Much of the attention Stann has garnered is due to his military background and quickly building up an undefeated record in mixed martial arts. The fact is that his undefeated record consists of just five bouts, but Marshall doesn’t discount his opponent when queried about his worthiness of a title shot.

“It’s always up to the WEC, what they want to do. Me and Brian are actually both managed by the same person, Robert Roveta with Denaro Sports Marketing. Brian’s been wanting this fight and he’s definitely the No. 1 contender and that’s who they see fit to put in front of me and it definitely makes for a good fight.”

Even though he has had to deal with many pressures in his military career, Marshall knows that Stann still hasn’t been tested by the pressures that come with being in a main event, title bout.

“I would think that they will affect him. I’m not going to lie; they still affect me,” said Marshall frankly. “It’s getting in there on a big card on a big stage, being the main event and having to perform. I’m getting a little more used to it, but I still get those butterflies and I’ve learned to work past it.

“I have butterflies all the way walking down the ramp and then as soon as I step in the cage, it’s like a moment of clarity or maybe a calm before the storm. There’s nothing else to think about.”

But maybe more than the pressures of the “big fight,” Marshall has his own form of stress that he feels he can apply that Stann hasn’t faced before.

“I don’t think in the fights that Brian has had, he has had to persevere through any kind of serious damage or even an onslaught like I’m planning to put on him. I think that will definitely tell me right away where he’s at,” he said.

“I know he’s going to be mentally strong, physically strong, but when you start cooking it up real good and you know this guy’s not breaking or he’s just in good shape or he’s got a lot of power, it could wear on your mind real fast.”

Marshall is definitely passionate about fighting. “It’s always a matter of pride whether you’re the champion or not. I don’t care if I’m fighting for one dollar or a million dollars. I’m in there looking to finish the fight, in there looking to win.” But fighting Stann isn’t personal.

“It’s pretty much just about business. This is my job; this is his job. He’s hungry, an up and coming fighter. I’m the champ, everybody’s gunning for me.”

By the same token, Marshall doesn’t plan to hold anything back, that’s not his style, not what got him to the light heavyweight championship in the first place. “Some guys go out and they fight not to lose, I’m definitely not one of those fighters.”

He’s also definitely not a fighter planning to let his title go easily. “We’re going to go out there and let it all hang out. I’m not looking at giving up my big gold belt, my strap, anytime soon.”