Nate (The Great) Marquardt needed crutches after his last foray into the cage.
But the former Strikeforce welterweight champion didn’t hesitate when he was asked to fight at UFC 158 on short notice.
His bout Saturday night against Jake (The Juggernaut) Ellenberger at Montreal’s Bell Centre marks his return to the UFC after two fights in Strikeforce.
“I’m super-excited,” said Marquardt, who suffered some nasty leg damage in a loss to Tarec Saffiedine in January. “I feel like this fight is a good chance to kind of erase my last fight. It’s a great fight for me to come back on.
“He’s a very tough guy and he’s a great fighter. He’s world-class. And those are the guys I do my best against.”
It’s also a welcome return to Montreal for Marquardt, a longtime training partner of UFC champion Georges St-Pierre — who faces Nick Diaz in the main event Saturday.
Marquardt (35-11-2) also spent two days working with GSP coach Firas Zahabi in the leadup to the Ellenberger bout.
An injury to Montreal’s Rory (Ares) MacDonald caused a domino effect in the UFC 158 welterweight fights, ultimately opening the door to Marquardt’s return.
Jonny Hendricks steps in for MacDonald to meet Carlos (The Natural Born Killer) Condit. That left Ellenberger (28-6), who had been due to meet Hendricks, without an opponent.
When the Ellenberger fight was offered, the 33-year-old Marquardt was still getting over the January loss that saw Saffiedine take his 170-pound Strikeforce title and wreak havoc on his lead leg with a string of punishing kicks.
A bad contusion and heavy swelling forced him on crutches for a week after the fight. The Denver-based Marquardt says permanent damage is not unusual in the wake of such bruising but he says his rehab went well.
He was still rehabbing his leg but had started some light grappling when he got the call from the UFC some three weeks out from the fight.
“As soon as I got the call, I basically scrambled and got a bunch of guys to come out (and help camp),” he said. “The first week I was making sure I was in great shape. These last two weeks I’ve been doing some really tough sparring and training with some very good guys.”
The short notice has not helped his weight cut, however. After years of fighting at 185 pounds, Marquardt has contested his last two bouts at welterweight (170 pounds).
“It’s definitely not ideal … I’m a little bit heavier right now than I normally am but at the same time I feel great.
“I don’t feel the extra couple of pounds is going to help or hurt me necessarily,” he added. “It’s more about how I feel and I feel great
Marquardt, who likes to start camp at around 192 pounds, says ironically his weight has ballooned more since the switch to welterweight.
“The funny thing is I’ve never got over 200 until I cut down to 170,” he said. “I would never go over 197, 198, and then all of a sudden I dieted to make 170. And then after the fight, I felt like I was starving all the time so I was constantly eating. I think the biggest I got was like 210 or a little more, but that’s kind of being a little bit bloated.”
He has since switched diets and believes he will be able to maintain a more natural weight of 195-197 while eating as much as he wants.
He discovered it in training for middleweight Dan Miller. He had been thinking about moving down to welterweight so decided to go into the Miller fight a little lighter. He liked how he felt.
“My cardio goes way up and I keep my explosive power .. I don’t feel tired, I just feel strong.”
After that, he made the switch and beat a tough customer in Tyron Woodley before stumbling against Saffiedine.
Marquardt said he did not feel himself against Saffiedine, saying he allowed the leg kicks to bother him mentally as well as physically.
“I didn’t fight intelligently,” he said. “I just went out there like it was a sparring match or something. I didn’t adjust when I needed to.”
He also acknowledged that he made mistakes during his training camp. That included not bringing in other kick-boxers and adding to his coaching staff.
“It cost me. A big mistake,” he said.
Marquardt went 10-4 as a middleweight in his first stint in the UFC, a run that included a TKO loss to champion Anderson Silva at UFC 73 in July 2007.
He was let go after a medical suspension for high testosterone levels caused by doctor-prescribed hormone replacement therapy. Marquardt had got an exemption from New Jersey authorities to fight Miller in March 2011 but part of that exemption involved follow-up tests after the bout when he was off the treatment — to determine whether it was needed.
Those tests showed low levels so he went on a more aggressive treatment plan ahead of a planned UFC main event with Rick (The Horror) Story on a televised card.
Marquardt was ultimately pulled from the card when a test on weigh-in day showed he was above the range permitted by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. The UFC subsequently cut him.
The fighter apologized at the time, saying “I messed up.”
Marquardt says he longer talks about the issue.
He was suspended in 2005 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after testing positive for high levels of an anabolic steroid. Marquardt, who blamed it on over-the-counter supplements, was suspended for five months.
The soft-spoken Marquardt has always been one of the sport’s true gentlemen, however.
At UFC 102 in August 2009, he had Demian Maia at his mercy after knocking the submission specialist flying with a right to the chin as the Brazilian attempted a kick.
He showed his class by electing to pull back on a final coup de grace, with Maia already down and dazed.