Marquardt feeling at home at 170 pounds

Weight's over: Nate Marquardt is done fighting in a division he doesn't feel fit for. Ed Mulholland for ESPN.com

The downward trend in UFC continues as recognizable mixed martial artists take their talents to lighter weight classes. Former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann has found a home at middleweight, as has ex-lightweight contender Kenny Florian, who recently changed his address to 145.

Now comes Nate Marquardt; the longtime middleweight contender makes his welterweight debut June 26 in Pittsburgh. Marquardt is set to face fast-rising Rick Story, who agreed to fill in for the injured Anthony Johnson.

But unlike Stann and Florian, both of whom thought long and hard before taking the plunge, Marquardt had no reservations about moving down a weight class. It was time to make the move because his body told him so.

“For me it was about how I felt for my last fight,” Marquardt said on Tuesday during a UFC conference call. “For my last fight [a unanimous decision in March over Dan Miller at UFC 128] I was very light, and I felt the best I’d felt in years.

“It [170 pounds] is more of a natural weight for me. My body operates best with less weight on. It’s about performance, and I feel I will perform better at a lighter weight -- regardless if I’m fighting at 185 or 170.”

While the decision to drop down came easy for Marquardt, his goal is no different from that of Florian’s or Stann’s. He wants no shortcuts in his new division but fully expects to catapult to the top of the welterweight rankings. And it starts by putting the brakes on Story, who enters the fight riding a six-bout win streak.

“I guess [a win] would put me at the top,” said Marquardt, who is 31-10-2. “Rick is as very tough guy. He just beat [Thiago] Alves who is a former world title contender. I’m just excited for the opportunity.”

Marquardt is feeling very good about his decision to compete at 170 pounds. And why not? His cardio is as good as ever; he's huge for the division, and he’s had a full training camp to shake any cobwebs that might hinder his effort. Marquardt expects to put on one of his best performances as a pro.

Then there is the issue of his opponent. Story has raised many eyebrows of late.

He handled Alves will little difficulty on May 28 at UFC 131 en route to a unanimous decision victory. Alves is a huge welterweight, who was expected to control Story standing. But Story not only held his own on the feet, he battled Alves strength for strength while grappling against the cage. No matter how big the opponent, and Marquardt will likely have a decided size advantage, Story refuses to get pushed around.

Story (13-3-0) is so confident in his abilities that he didn’t hesitate to take this fight on short notice. A fast turnaround is right up Story’s alley.

“We requested a fight quick, maybe not so quick,” Story said. “But with the opportunity of Anthony Johnson dropping out, I like fighting frequently, so we jumped all over the opportunity to fill in for Anthony Johnson.”