LAS VEGAS – Doug Marshall can't wait to talk about the 40-some pounds he's lost in the last year.
He's not pitching the latest diet fad or a sandwich shop.
Rather, Marshall speaks of his weight loss with a pride that comes from having blown up in weight to be able to face – and beat – the biggest and baddest guys on the block.
But the 30-year-old Marshall, who stands just 5 feet 10, is a lot badder himself when he's fighting in the proper weight class. And though he'll be at an eight-inch height disadvantage when he defends his WEC light heavyweight title against 6-6 Justin McElfresh on Saturday night at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, that's a fair fight as far as Marshall is concerned.
"I've been beating guys bigger than me my whole life," snorts Marshall, dubbed the "Rhino."
"Been there, done that."
Indeed, he beat 6-4, 270-pound Lavar Johnson and 5-10, 255-pound Anthony Arria in back-to-back fights in 2004.
But Marshall is better suited for the light heavyweight division and its 205-pound weight limit. Not only can he be in better condition, he usually doesn't have to worry about straining his neck looking up during the pre-fight stare-down.
McElfresh, though, is a unique match for a light heavyweight because of his size and reach. None of that seems to bother Marshall.
"I'm going out there to bust this guy up and keep my title," Marshall said. "It doesn't matter to me. Everybody is this and that before the bell rings, but when they're in the cage with you and they get hit for the first time, it's a completely different story.
"I'm coming to do damage and inflict pain and get this fight over as quickly as possible."
Marshall has been fighting for most of his life, though he laughs and says, "Only recently have I gotten paid for it."
He recalls one of his better punches in the linen section at the Visalia, Calif., Wal-Mart, when he caught another man leering at his girlfriend.
Marshall didn't find it amusing and asked the man to knock it off in, well, a less-than-delicate manner.
"I told the guy if he didn't stop, I'd poke his (expletive) eye out and the next thing I know, we're letting them go right there," Marshall said. "It wasn't my most technical fight and it wasn't my finest moment, but I wasn't putting up with that crap."
Shortly after the brawl, which ended with Marshall quickly sneaking out of the store to avoid security and his adversary lying face down in a pool of his own saliva and blood, Marshall had his first child, a son named Gavin, which caused him to do some soul-searching.
"I looked at that kid and I realized how much he needed me and that this wasn't the life that I needed to be leading," Marshall said. "I needed to be there for him. I didn't need to be doing 25 to life somewhere. It was right at that time that I almost had an epiphany, a real moment of clarity."
Marshall didn't want something stupid to happen. While he was very good at fighting, he realized he was much better off not only being paid for it, but having people cheer his handiwork.
He still encounters men who feel they need to prove their toughness by challenging him. In his previous incarnation, Marshall says, the words wouldn't have been out of the guy's mouth before a brawl had begun. He still doesn't turn them down, but he handles the would-be tough guys much differently.
"I'm not Paris Hilton or anything, but I realize I'm under the microscope now," Marshall said. "I can't be putting myself at risk by doing that. If a guy wants to try me, I tell him to put his money down and sign a contract and get to the gym and we can do it.
"I'm done fighting for free. I've done both and I can tell you this: It's a hell of a lot nicer to get a check at the end of the fight. Getting paid is the only way to go."
- Doug Marshall