In a sport like mixed martial arts, where size sometimes does matter, and sometimes it matters a lot, trying to be the biggest fish in the pond doesn’t always work to a fighter’s advantage.
While basic logic dictates that the farther down in weight a fighter can manage to go on weigh-in day and still safely return to some semblance of his normal weight before the fight, the bigger advantage he’ll have, that doesn’t always prove to be true.
If a fighter pushes the weight cut too far, it can have a devastating affect on his career.
That is the position that Nate Marquardt found himself in after experimenting with fighting at 170 pounds for the past three years, after having fought at or around 185 pounds for the better part of the 11 or 12 years prior.
He went 1-3 during his welterweight tenure, having lost his last three fights prior to his return to middleweight.
Marquardt returned to 185 pounds at UFC Auckland on Saturday and put on one of his best performances in years. Despite James Te Huna cutting down from 205 pounds and having a very obvious size advantage, Marquardt was quicker, more skilled, and dominant. He finished the fight in the opening five-minute frame, submitting Te Huna with an armbar.
The difference? Not having to cut weight as drastically as he had been doing to make welterweight.
“I think that was a big part of it,” said Marquardt. “My training was suffering because of the diet. So I wasn’t getting the right training and I wasn’t able to recover from my workouts.
“I think the cut the week of the fight was affecting me in the fight, and I believe this is where I’m supposed to be, at 185.”
Dieting may not sound like such a big deal, but we’re not talking about trying to look good in a bathing suit when hitting the beach over the summer. We’re talking about trying to fight your body’s natural instincts to maintain a certain weight and getting to within a range where, in the final days and hours leading up to the weigh-in, you can drop an additional amount of water weight that could amount to as much as 10 to 20 pounds.
Then, after that drastic reduction, trying to rehydrate your body so that you can function in a fight 24 hours later.
Not only does it take a toll on the body, but it can also take so much focus that a fighter can’t properly work on their skills and conditioning leading up to the fight.
In short, everything that makes a fighter a fighter suffers: skill, conditioning, mental preparedness.
“I feel like my confidence has been built back up leading up to this fight,” said Marquardt.
“I don’t think I was meant to fight at 170. I had early success fighting Tyron Woodley, and so once I had that success, it took a lot to kind of knock sense into me. It finally worked after my last fight (a first-round knockout loss to Hector Lombard).”
Marquardt still has a long road ahead to return to the position that saw him at one time challenge then-middleweight champion Anderson Silva for the belt, but at least now he doesn’t feel as if he’s headed down the wrong fork in the road.