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UFC 102:

Tracking down the Spider

Marquardt hoping Anderson Silva will still be around if he gets his title shot

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Sam Morris

Nate Marquardt strikes Jeremy Horn on the mat at UFC 81 February 2, 2008 at Mandalay Bay. Marquardt won by submission in the 2nd round by guillotine choke.

Christmas is still a few months away, but if Nate Marquardt defeats Demian Maia in their middleweight bout at UFC 102 in Portland this Saturday, here’s a good guess as to what he’ll be asking Santa for this year: Please keep Anderson Silva in the middleweight division.

“Our thing is we want to fight the best in the world,” said Marquardt’s boxing coach, Trevor Wittman. “Nate knows he can beat Anderson Silva. One thing about mixed martial arts is that one punch can change any fight. We made one mistake when we got to fight him the first time and it changed everything.”

Marquardt earned the right to face Silva more than two years ago at UFC 73 with the middleweight title on the line.

Although Marquardt was a then-perfect 4-0 in the organization, every interview in the weeks leading up to the fight focused on asking the young fighter how he would handle Silva’s striking abilities.

Eventually, it got to the point where Marquardt began asking the question himself.

“I wasn’t used to all the interviews and I had so many where they were asking me, ‘He’s the best striker in the world, how are you going to handle it?’” Marquardt said. “When that fight came, those thoughts got in my head.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I better watch out for his striking and take him down,’ and that’s when I got caught.”

Since that defeat, Marquardt has worked his way back into position for another title shot, finishing fights against Jeremy Horn, Martin Kampmann and Wilson Gouveia.

But while UFC President Dana White has said that a win over Maia would put him next in line for a title shot after Dan Henderson, he can’t guarantee that fight would be against Silva.

With Silva’s recent conquests over James Irvin and Forrest Griffin, many are speculating ‘The Spider’ might take up knocking out 205-pounders full-time.

While a UFC championship would definitely give the Colorado-based fighter a sense of accomplishment, it wouldn’t completely erase the mistakes he felt he made in their first meeting.

“For me personally, yeah, I want a rematch,” Marquardt said. “I want to prove to myself that I can do it. I just don’t feel like I did my best. I don’t even feel like I tried to do my best when I fought him the first time.

“There’s almost like a regret I have from it. I don’t want to finish my career and have that regret. I want to go out and face him with 100 percent of what I have and see what happens. As long as I do that, I’ll be satisfied.”

It would be hard to imagine a better time in the 30-year-old fighter’s career than now to receive a second chance at Silva.

Marquardt’s training schedule bounces him back and forth between sessions with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, N.M., and Georges St. Pierre in Montreal, Quebec.

According to his corner, that variety has built him into one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC.

“I never feel the need to bring in anyone special for my training,” Marquardt said, who still does the majority of his preparations in Denver. “The normal guys I use always give me great work. That’s the whole thing, I don’t want to change my training depending on who I fight. I want to be ready in every single area.”

If things don’t go the way Marquardt’s camp hopes, that may be their only shot if Silva does head for heavier opponents.

Maybe if Nate ‘The Great’ can run the division, it will be Silva who will want a piece of him.

“Our main goal is to get out there and dominate everybody that gets in front of us,” Wittman said. “I think if we do that there could be a super fight down the road. If we keep winning fights dominantly, people are going to want to see that fight.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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