The lesson here is a fairly simple one: Never say never.
There was a time, not so long ago, when it seemed like fans had a better chance of hitting the lottery than ever seeing Nate Marquardt fight in the UFC again.
Marquardt, we all recall, was released from the world’s largest MMA promotion in June during a chaotic, whirlwind weekend that saw the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission yank him from a fight against Rick Story (who had already replaced the injured Anthony Johnson) when Marquardt’s testosterone levels proved inappropriately high during prefight exams.
At the time, it all seemed very final. The news of Marquardt’s firing was disseminated to the public via a succinct 12-second Internet video from Dana White. The UFC president later said he was “disgusted” with Marquardt’s behavior and likened extending his time in Zuffa's employ to giving him a “fourth chance.”
“Nate’s done,” White said in the days following. “I’m done with Nate.”
Fast-forward eight months, after the former King of Pancrase signed and then worked his way out of a deal with the UK-based BAMMA organization without ever fighting there, and Marquardt is back. The middleweight contender turned theoretical welterweight will become the latest addition to the beleaguered Strikeforce roster and will reportedly fight self-proclaimed uncrowned 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley at an event to be named later.
A sliver of ambiguity White left surrounding Marquardt last summer -- "I don't know about Strikeforce," White said when asked if the newly unemployed fighter might find a home there. "Don't even ask me about Strikeforce." -- has blossomed into a whole new beginning. What once seemed like a lifetime ban has been duly downgraded to a simple demotion to Zuffa’s slightly less popular broadcast platform. Fair enough.
What we don’t know, exactly, is why.
We don’t know what -- if anything -- has happened behind the scenes to change Zuffa’s mind. We don’t know if Marquardt has changed the particulars of his medical situation. We’re not sure if he is still undergoing testosterone replacement therapy, which last June he credited with, among other things, saving his marriage, or if he’s just promised to keep it within the legal limit this time.
Obviously, the circumstances of his dismissal haven’t changed. “Facts are facts,” White said at the time. Marquardt’s history hasn’t changed, either. He’s still the guy who tested positive for steroids following a win over Ivan Salaverry back in 2005. He’s still the guy who was already on notice in New Jersey for circumstances involving hormone therapy after his win over Dan Miller three months before he showed up to take on Story.
As of right now, we’re left to assume the only thing that’s changed is the passage of time.
It’s eight months later. Everyone has cooled down from that initial burst of activity and anger and realized an MMA world where Marquardt is still under contract to Zuffa suits everyone in the equation better than the alternative.
That’s nature of the fight game in 2012, of professional sports, really -- to be wholly uncompromising and yet incredibly transitory at the same time.
If there’s one constant in this industry, it’s that all things change. They change quickly, irreparably and forever.
Then, given enough time for everybody to get over it, they typically change back.