It admittedly felt good to see things take a positive turn for Nate Marquardt when the embattled fighter inked an exclusive, multifight deal with the UK-based BAMMA organization, as first reported by ESPN.com’s Josh Gross on Friday.
As positive as things can get, that is, for a guy who is still persona non grata in the UFC. A guy who, despite remaining the No. 5 middleweight in the world according to the ESPN.com rankings, appeared to have few good options left after Bellator and even the re-launched ProElite organization recently decided they weren’t interested.
Marquardt and his controversial testosterone replacement therapy have been a hot topic of conversation among message board certified, comment section-approved medical experts ever since he was unexpectedly yanked from the main event of UFC Live 4 and subsequently fired from the company via 12-second internet video in June. Fact is, those of us who aren’t doctors still have no real idea if Marquardt is a cheater or just a victim of his own naiveté, but seeing him at least temporarily close what must have been the most difficult four weeks of his professional career on Friday was a welcome sight.
As obscure as it is in the states, BAMMA appears on the rise after successfully staging six events in England since its debut in 2009. The promotion will undoubtedly move quickly to try to put Marquardt into a fight with Paul Daley for its vacant welterweight title and the middleweight championship currently held by Tom Watson also looks like easy pickings for a fighter the caliber of “Nate the Great.” With the UFC still only committed to one or two shows per year across the pond, the potential exists for BAMMA to be at least a modest regional success (and a profitable one) with Marquardt as a star attraction.
Yet, even as he finds a provisional home in the UK, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Marquardt’s long-term prospects remain pretty bleak so long as he’s unwelcome in the UFC and/or Strikeforce. More and more in MMA, it feels like there are the Zuffa properties -- with their pay-per-view events and cable television deals and accident insurance -- and then everybody else.
It also won’t help Marquardt’s public image that his next fight will take place in England, where drug testing and regulatory efforts are largely left to promoters. Despite what BAMMA Vice President Liam Fisher told Gross about the promotion introducing “mandatory PED tests for title fights and random PED tests both pre- and post-event,” some fans will no doubt see this move as Marquardt trying to avoid further run-ins with American athletic commissions, like the ones in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that contributed to his UFC ouster.
At 32 years old, he’ll still be able to have some marketable fights and make a little money, but so long as Marquardt remains locked out of the UFC, he’ll never again attain the heights he reached while making a run at the middleweight title in 2007 or as relevant as it appeared he was on the verge becoming again with a potential foray into the UFC welterweight division. Those are just the facts, stinging as they are.
Debate will no doubt continue to rage online about what Marquardt may or may not have done to bring about the end of his UFC career. What’s that old saying about opinions? They’re like web sites, everybody has one? Something like that.
In the long run, the only opinions that will matter about Marquardt belong to the guys who hold the keys to the Octagon and, so far, they appear unwavering in their declaration that the former middleweight No. 1 contender will never fight for them again.