Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 | 2:44 p.m.
When it comes to the truth behind UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen's alleged steroid use, Nate Marquardt deserves to know more than just about anyone.
Marquardt was, after all, one fight away from receiving a shot at the middleweight title back in February when Sonnen defeated him by unanimous decision at UFC 109.
The result of that fight catapulted Sonnen into a title fight against Anderson Silva on Aug. 7, where he lost via submission before failing his post-fight drug test.
The California State Athletic Commission since has suspended Sonnen for one year, naming "steroids" as the banned substance detected in his system. Sonnen is scheduled to appeal that decision Dec. 2.
The controversy has sparked much speculation into how long Sonnen may have been using performance-enhancing drugs — speculation, however, that Marquardt has chosen to ignore.
Whether Sonnen was using steroids or not during their No. 1 contenders fight is irrelevant, according to Marquardt.
"My thinking is, it doesn't matter if the guy I'm fighting is on steroids," he said. "I don't care about that. I should be able to beat him either way. I feel like I can fight someone on steroids and still have them at a disadvantage.
"If you're a true athlete, the best way is to be natural. Anything you get from steroids you're trading off somewhere else, whether it's your cardio or longevity in the sport. You need all those things."
Marquardt added he isn't aware exactly what substances Sonnen tested positive for and spoke highly of his opponent's skills, enhanced or not.
"Honestly, I really don't know what to think. I don't know the facts," Marquardt said. "Either way, he's a tough guy and he's going to be back before long."
What Marquardt (30-9-2) didn't mind seeing was Sonnen pulled from his immediate rematch against Silva, which had been expected to take place either late this year or early 2011.
Sonnen's suspension bumped Vitor Belfort into title contention and opened a spot for Marquardt against Yushin Okami (25-5) in the UFC 122 main event Nov. 13 in Oberhausen, Germany.
The fight is being billed as a No. 1 contenders fight for the middleweight division — an opportunity Marquardt figured he was close to after defeating Rousimar Palhares in September.
The fact that Sonnen's situation has brought that opportunity sooner rather than later is something Marquardt won't complain about.
"When you're at the top of the division, you're always one or two fights away from the title shot," he said. "I figured I would have one more fight against a top guy and then a No. 1 contenders fight.
"That it's happening sooner, just makes me very excited."
It's been less than a year since Marquardt was this close to the title, but the 31-year-old fighter says his emotions are much different now than they were in February.
Prior to his loss to Sonnen, Marquardt had strung together a streak of three wins, all of which he ended in dominant fashion.
Although Marquardt stops short of describing himself as cocky at the beginning of the year, he admits that success might have affected his mentality.
"When I fought Chael, I had been on a tear," Marquardt said. "I pretty much had beat the crap out of everyone I fought since losing to Silva (in 2007.)
"I wouldn't say I was overconfident, but I possibly lost a little bit of the fire that I have to be the champion."
Marquardt says the loss to Sonnen has refueled that fire and says the manner in which he refocuses and dedicates himself following a loss is what's gotten him as far in mixed martial arts as he's come.
When it comes to missing out on the opportunity to face Silva in August, not much has changed for Marquardt should he get by Okami this month.
He still expects to get his shot at the UFC middleweight title and he expects it to come against Silva, who he feels will defeat Belfort to hang on to the belt.
And when it comes to the idea that Sonnen created a blueprint for defeating Silva in that August fight, Marquardt says he's got one that actually will finish the job.
"To say that (Sonnen showed a blueprint) is really silly, in my opinion, because he lost," Marquardt said. "Even though he beat the crap out of Anderson for four rounds he ended up losing and that's party because of the way he was fighting.
"Some of the same things he was doing that created openings for him to do damage and hold him down are the same things that put him in trouble of getting caught. I have my own game plan."