(Skip to the 1:27 mark, where the ass-kicking begins. And don’t try to act like you aren’t digging the music, either.)
In his time with the IFL, Rory Markham became known as the guy who didn’t really start fighting until he got hurt. More than one of his bouts began with him getting dropped and ended with him getting his hand raised, so much so that trainer Pat Miletich used to plead with Markham to fight smart before he got rocked.
But as Markham admits in this exclusive interview, that’s just not his style, as anyone who saw his devastating head-kick KO of Brodie Farber in his UFC debut knows by now. At UFC 95 next Saturday night Markham takes on England’s Dan Hardy in London. Chances are, things will get ugly fast.
CagePotato.com: Thanks for talking with me, Rory. Now that you’re in the UFC, how have things changed for you?
You know, I’ve been putting in a lot of time, trying to hone my skills since October. I found that I was weak in certain areas and I knew I needed to improve. Being in the UFC now, it’s improve or die.
What areas do you feel you needed to improve in?
I don’t want to touch on bad instances, but there was one moment in the Brett Cooper fight where I really felt like if he hadn’t gotten the takedown and I could have kept it on the feet, there would have been a drastically different finish to that fight. Since then I’ve been really trying to hone my wrestling skills. I see what wrestling has done for guys like Georges St. Pierre and even, I think people overlook what it did for B.J. Penn. When he went out with Randy [Couture] and Matt Lindland, that’s when he really hit his stride. That’s something I noticed that I needed to work on. Definitely in the long run, maybe not in this fight or even the next one, I think it’s going to add to the longevity of my career.
Speaking of the longevity of your career, your brawling style seems to have led to a lot of injuries over the years. Is that something you’re trying to change?
You know, unfortunately I think it’s due in part to the kind of fighter that I am. It’s been said in the past that in the ring the truth will find you, and that just seems to be my truth. I go out there and if you’re looking for fight, I’ll give you one. That’s the kind of fighter I am.
But I need to work on becoming more of a mixed martial artist. I’m not saying that I want to take away any of my excitement, but you look at a guy like Anderson Silva, with his “ballet of violence,” you can see that he’s a real martial artist, and he’s exciting to watch. That’s what I want to become in the end. I’m not saying I’ll get there right away, but I want to get there eventually.
Let’s talk about your first UFC fight against Brodie Farber. For a moment there it looked like you were in trouble. What was going through your mind in that fight?
The opening stanza was a pretty good back and forth. I think people like to play up the fact that I wasn’t winning a portion of that fight, but that portion was only about fifteen seconds. The other two and a half minutes were dead even. I was trying to stay in the pocket and turn him to my right so I could get a good look at his jaw. So I was trying to slowly turn him, and in one instance I was just about ready to sit down on it and try to cut the angle, and he just happened to catch me sitting there with a full power shot.
You could really see me start to retreat there, and I have to give credit to my time in the IFL on that one. It definitely made me a more knowledgeable fighter in the sense that when I get hurt I know how to handle it at least a little bit better. Before the IFL and my Chris Wilson fight, when I got hurt I’d just come straight at you, and that’s just the dumbest thing in the world. Now I circle and circle and circle, which is what I was doing.
But I threw the kick with the goal of getting him off me. I’m not going to lie and say I’m a sharpshooter and I saw his hands slipping. No, I thought, I’ll throw the kick and if he blocks it I’ll break his arm or at least shock him enough that he’ll give me six or seven seconds to recover and get my legs beneath me. Luckily, he was a little overconfident and overzealous, and I threw it as hard as I could.
So what do you think about Dan Hardy?
I think he’s a good stand-up guy. It seems like he likes to kick a lot. He’s got good jiu-jitsu, likes to play the rubber guard. More than anything, I think we’ve got the kind of styles to make this a good, exciting fight for the fans. That’s always my goal. I want to leave the ring with my hand raised and to have the fans satisfied, knowing they got what they paid for.
With the fight in London, you’re obviously not going to be the fan favorite. A lot of fighters don’t like making that trip. What are your thoughts on fighting in England?
Well, that’s new. Not the fan favorite thing. The IFL gave us a little of that when you go into someone else’s hometown and fight them on their turf. Obviously this is going to be a little more intense. But when I took on fighting as a career, one of the things I liked about it was that it gave me an opportunity to be well-traveled. Not just fighting, but cornering guys, you get to see places like Japan a lot. I’ve seen a lot of the country through fighting, and now I get to go across the pond.
This whole thing is a chance to become a little more cultured, and to become a better human being. There’s nothing like getting to go to another country and fight someone from a completely different background in their home. I think it’s very cool and very interesting.
Where do you think this will put you in the UFC’s welterweight division if you win?
I don’t know. I leave that up to you guys. I can say, with all humility, that I have some of the best power in the division. Not that I’m the best all around by any means, but I think I’m one of the hardest hitters in the division. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a welterweight who can hit as hard as I can. All I can really do is try to put together a few good fights and hope you guys notice.
Do you ever worry that if you lose a fight or two the UFC will drop you like they have with some other guys?
You know, I’ve always found those kind of thoughts to be of less emotional value. They do nothing but hinder you. If I’m fighting not to lose, even if that’s successful and I don’t lose, I certainly don’t end up fighting to win in an exciting fashion. So I don’t worry about it. I think a lot of my career – and this is going to sound hokey, but I think it’s true – has been kind of fated. I feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do since birth. Even when I had problems with my retina and people would say, ‘Don’t you worry about your eye and your vision?’ But I always think that I’ve been lucky in not being the kind of person who dwells on that stuff. I just don’t let it bother me.
Are there times when you’re injured, like when you damaged your retina or broke your hand or any other of the numerous injuries you’ve had from fighting, and thought to yourself, ‘Man, this just isn’t worth it’?
Absolutely, dude. [laughs] Yeah. More so than I’d like to admit. If I’m having a really bad day I’ll contemplate retirement. I think what you see B.J. dealing with, and he’s one of the more honest fighters, with himself I mean, and so is Georges, and I think that’s a common feeling to get down after a loss and feel like retiring for a little bit. This is not an easy life, not an easy way to make a buck. People don’t think about the aches and pains, the dislocated backs, the fractured whatever. But in the end you’ve got to do it because you love it. It’s way too painful to do it for any other reason.