NATE MARQUARDT - King of Pancrase Interview


At only 22 years old, Nate “The Great” Marquardt has established himself as one of the greatest champions in mixed martial arts today. With a professional record of 16-1 over opponents like Shonie Carter and Kiuma Kunioku, Nate is a two-time (and current) middleweight King of Pancrase. Although Nate is a popular fighter in Japan, many US fans know little about him. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Nate in his hometown of Broomfield, Colorado and conduct the following interview:

Q: How did you get started in Mixed Martial Arts?

(NM) I saw the UFC at a friend’s house when I was in high school, probably one of the first 3 UFCs with Royce Gracie. I watched Royce whoop up on some bigger guys, so I wanted to take some Jiu-Jitsu, but I wanted a school that taught both grappling and kickboxing. Royce was an inspiration for me to get started because he was the always the smaller guy in the fight, but he would win. I was also pretty small at the time compared to everyone else in my school. But as I continued to watch, I realized it was a fault to train in only one style and ignore the other aspects like stand-up, or takedowns or submissions. One of the most well rounded fighters I’ve seen is Frank Shamrock. He’s got the stand-up skills, takedowns, grappling…he’s in good shape, he’s got cardio, and he’s flexible. He was also an inspiration for me.

Q: What kind of fighter would you classify yourself as, and what style do you feel is your base?

(NM) Personally, I like grappling the most. I think there is a lot someone can learn, and continue learning on the ground, until your 60 years old. But when I get in the ring, I feel real comfortable on my feet and I always try to dominate the standup, no matter what happens as far as takedowns or grappling. Even if I’m fighting a striker, I try to dominate the standup and make them have to take me down.

Q: Your record is 16 - 1. Out of all of your previous opponents, who do you feel was the toughest?

(NM) I’d have to say that would be Kiuma Kunioku (Pancrase). Even though I’ve basically beaten him twice, he’s still the toughest. That’s because he’s physically strong and he’s very smart in and ring. If he gets in a bad position, he doesn’t panic. No matter what position he gets in, he gets out of it. He’s got great endurance, he’s flexible, and has great takedowns. He’s hard to strike with because he’s so fast on the shoot.

Q: As the Middleweight King of Pancrase, you fight in Japan several times a year. What do you think of the Pancrase organization and the whole experience of fighting in Japan?

(NM) I think Pancrase is the best organization as far as quality. The have great fighters, they really treat you well and take care of you when you’re over there, and they pay well. The Japanese Pancrase fighters train really hard. I think it is a great organization.
I also love Japan…the people, the culture, and the food. Sushi is my favorite. The Japanese fans are really great. They’re also very respectful. If I’m walking down the street and someone recognizes me, they won’t just run up and start talking to me. Even if I can hear them saying my name or pointing at me, they won’t come up and invade my privacy. They give me space. Another thing I really like about the Japanese fans is that they’re very educated about fighting. They watch the fight for the technique and all the aspects involved, not just to see violence. They really appreciate the art and the training that goes into a fight.

Q: As you know, last year, Pancrase changed their matches to closed fist strikes from open palm, and recently they have allowed more techniques such as kicking the opponent while they’re down, making it essentially a less restrictive match than say, the UFC. How do you feel about fighting under these new rules?

(NM) All of my fights in Pancrase have been close-fisted matches. For me, the less rules, the better. When I’m training, I always think about what strikes could be used, or what position could be utilized for no-rules. Like when I have someone in the guard, I’m always holding their head…watching for the headbutts or elbows. Personally, I don’t like headbutts, because I think it’s lame to see a fight end because of a cut due to a headbutt. But I like the rules where you can kick on the ground because I think it makes it more exciting. I think the fewer rules, the more exciting the fight’s going to be. You’re going to see more strikes thrown and movement’s going to have to be a lot faster. You know if you get a single-leg on someone and don’t finish it off, there’s a chance you’ll get a knee to the head or whatever, so I think fighters have to move a lot faster and put more power into it.

Q: After a fight, you will often stay in Japan for a month or more at a time to train. Could you tell us about your training schedule there?

(NM) I really don’t follow anyone’s schedule while I’m there, but I’ll set my own. A lot of the fighters there follow different schedules and train at different gyms so I like to mix it up. They have sparring session schedules, like Pancrase Tokyo spars on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. So I usually go on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. There I’ll spar with fighters like Yoshiki Takahashi, Kei Yamamiya, and Yuki Kondo. Then I’ll go to Shinjuku Sports Center on and train with Team Grabaka, which is Sanae Kikuta’s team. Kikuta just won the Abu Dhabi title this year in his weight class. I train with them on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. So I train six days a week sparring with two different teams, and at night I’ll weight lift or train kickboxing with Daisuke Ishii, or Mattias Lorentzi, Pancrase’s Muay Thai trainer. Sometimes I’ll go to other gyms, like Sports Kaikan, and train with fighters like Akihiro Gono and some Shooto and Rings fighters.

Q: How do you train when you’re back in Colorado?

(NM) I’m based out of Stars Mixed Martial Arts Training Center. I train there with Billy Hendricks, who is a national Jiu-Jitsu champion and my corner man. I’ve trained with Larry Parker, who’s a really experienced fighter and has fought all over the world, including Pride. He’s in Russia right now. I’ve trained with Ron Waterman who’s fought in the UFC, but he’s training at the WWF right now. Other than that, I train with my students or other fighters that come to Stars. I normally train six days a week. I go in early, at about 3 PM to lift weights for an hour, and then I rest, eat, and take some protein. I’ll start again at about 5PM to practice with some local wrestlers. Then from 6-7PM I teach class, spar from 7 to 8:30PM, and then do calisthenics and cardio for the last half hour, three days a week.

Q: What about stand-up training?

(NM) Basically, I train stand up three days a week. One day a week I train specifically in kickboxing, and two days a week I’ll do MMA stand-up training where we put on headgear, vale tudo gloves and shin guards. We’ll train stand-up, takedowns and some rolling.

Q: You mentioned that you teach at Colorado Stars. Tell us about that.

(NM) I basically teach technique. We do 15 minutes of stand up, drill takedowns, then I’ll show positioning like mount reversal or guard pass, something like that. Then I’ll teach submissions.

Q: What do you like better, fighting or teaching?

(NM) I like them both. And they kind of go hand-in-hand for me. I think it’s better that way. When you teach, it’s kind of like doing a review of what you know.

Q: Later this year, you’ll defend your Pancrase title in Japan. Beyond that, is there any direction or goals you have for your fighting career?

(NM) Yeah, I definitely want to fight more in the US. Many of the American fans don’t know much about me. They may have heard of me, but haven’t seen me fight. I think it would be cool to fight for a big organization in the States. But Pancrase has done a lot for me, so I’ll always want to represent them, no matter where I fight.

I also want to retain the middleweight Pancrase belt for a while and get some exposure. When I feel I’m ready, I want to start moving up in weight classes. I want to get to just under 200 lbs.…somewhere around there, but above 190, to where I feel strong. I think fans like that weight class because the fighters are real powerful, but they still have good speed, endurance and technique.

Q: Do you have any sponsors right now?

(NM) Yes, I definitely have to make a plug for my sponsor, Kikskin. I wear their equipment when I fight and train and I really love it. It’s the best quality. If you’ve ever used their stuff, you know what I’m talking about.

Q: Is there anything thing you would like to say?

(NM) Yes, I wanted to mention that Colorado Stars is welcoming pro fighters or aspiring pros… anyone serious about training and wants to take their training to a higher level. Whether they want to relocate here, or train for just a few weeks or months, I think we have a lot to offer. You know, I learned a lot during my training in Japan. The fighters I trained with there are the best and have been in the game the longest. They include everything; fighting, cardio, diet and supplements. I’ve also been trained by professional bodybuilders and power lifters for my weight training, so it’s a complete package.

Q: Sounds great. Hey, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me, and wish you luck in your future fights.

(NM) It’s my pleasure.

You can reach Nate Marquardt through his manager, Will Hendricks at Stars MMA Arts Training Center.
Tel: (303) 635-0530, Cell: (303) 589-3394



Mile High Sports Magazine - Game Faces

Anniversary Issue
Nathan Marquardt – Mixed Martial Arts

Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of Nathan Marquardt. At Wheat Ridge High School he wasn’t a standout, and you probably won’t find his name in the headlines of the sports page any time soon. Here in America, most of us wouldn’t know Nathan Marquardt from Adam. But when walks down the street in Japan, he can’t avoid a crowd of fans and autograph seekers.

In his sport, Nathan Marquardt is the King.

He’s a five time “King of Pancrase”, a sanctioned mixed martial arts series in Japan. In America, we’re more familiar with the Ultimate Fighting Championship series, but in Japan, the Pancrase series is wildly popular.

“Nathan could easily fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship events – and he’s had plenty of offers,” says Will Hendricks, the manager of the Stars Training Center in Broomfield where Marquardt works out. “Quite honestly, the money over there is much better. When the sport becomes bigger in this country, the money will follow and people here will start to know Nathan, too.”

One reason Marquardt lives in relative anonymity in his home country is an overall lack of understanding when it comes to mixed martial arts. According to Marquardt, the common misconception in America is that mixed martial arts events such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship are viewed simply as a “backyard” brawl.

“That’s not the case at all,” he says, defending his sport. “This sport is about discipline and athletic ability. The intent is not at all too seriously hurt your opponent, but rather to beat him mentally and physically using strategy and skill.”

After watching several of Marquardt’s fights (taped from Japanese television), it’s obvious that mixed martial arts is not for street fighters. Furthermore, matches typically don’t yield serious injuries. The sport involves many skill sets including wrestling, boxing, kick boxing, karate and Jiu-Jitsu. Much like boxing, a match can be won by a knockout, a technical knockout, or by decision. In mixed martial arts, however, a match can also be won by “submission” which takes place when one fighter forces the other fighter to admit defeat, most commonly because of a choke hold or joint lock.

The 24-year old Marquardt, who weighs in around 185 lbs., is considered to be one of the top five fighters in his weight class in the world. His training consists of a lengthy schedule of weight lifting, wrestling, sparring in both boxing and kick boxing, and a healthy dose of cardiovascular activity. A careful mix of protein, carbohydrates and at least 10 hours of sleep provides the fuel that carries this international super-athlete.
Marquardt, who has been fighting professionally for four years now, has fought in front of huge crowds and for big paychecks. In countries such as Japan and Brazil where the mixed martial arts series are followed like football in America, “Nathan Marquardt” is a household name. But until his sport becomes popular on home soil, Marquardt will continue to earn a healthy living by dominating his opponents overseas, making sure that no one dethrones the King.

Pancrase USA/Stars Training Center
8 Garden Center, Broomfield, CO. 80020
Tel: 303-635-0530
Website: www.Pancrase.US


 Pancrase Academy article in Ultimate Athlete Magazine





Nathan Marquardt Interview
Words and photos by Peter Lockley

Nathan Marquardt is already one of the most accomplished fighters in MMA, and he's only 22 years old. On September 24, 2000, Marquardt defeated Shonie Carter to be crowned the first middleweight King of Pancrase. No one in the history of the organization had done it faster-it took him only nine months. On top of that, he was the youngest to win the coveted crown, shared by Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Bas Rutten and Guy Mezger. At only 21 years and 5 months old, Marquardt captured the title four months younger than KOP heavyweight Yuki Kondo.

Pancrase USA fighter Nate Marquardt in Tokyo

Marquardt went back to Japan in October to defend his belt for the second time. After wearing down his opponent with some good displays of striking and wrestling, Marquardt defeated 4th ranked Pancrase challenger Yuji Hoshino with a triangle choke in the third round. Marquardt stayed in Japan to train for his fight one month later against Kiuma Kunioku, whom he had beaten by decision twice before. Despite showing improved standup techniques and fighting an evenly matched ground battle, it wasn't enough. After three rounds the judges gave the fight to Kinioku in a 2-0-1 decision. Though it was his second loss in a major title fight (after losing to Gil Castillo in the IFC), the judging once again came under more fire than Marquardt's performance.

Pancrase USA fighter Nate Marquardt training in JapanEnergized by his recent losses, "Nate the Great" (a nickname given to him by a former girlfriend) is ready to prove that he is still the #1 middleweight in Pancrase and has what it takes to be the #1 middleweight in the world.

UA: Tell us about your background and family.

NM: I've lived in Colorado since I was 8. Before that I lived near Chicago and in Indiana. I was born in Wyoming. My mom is a manager at an attorney's office and my dad does construction. My older brother was an f-16 pilot, now he instructs other jet fighters. I have two older sisters, one works for a newspaper in Colorado Springs, and I have a younger sister too.

UA: When did you start training in martial arts?

NM: I was 16 years old and I trained in kenpo and shootfighting under Alistair McNiven.

UA: When did you start training at Colorado Stars?

NM: I started training at Stars about three years ago. 

UA: Ron Waterman, Larry Parker, Duane Ludwig and yourself all fight out of Colorado Stars. What is the secret with a relatively small gym in a small town producing so many good fighters?

NM: Me! (laughs) It was more like we all came together at Stars. Now we're in the process of producing some good fighters. When I first started training I wanted to know where the best place to grapple was . . . I think Ron and Larry were already training together. I'd seen Larry in jiu-jitsu and wrestling and I thought he was really good, so I started to go train with them. I trained kickboxing with Duane and when he decided to start grappling, he came to Stars as well. We all pushed each other to become better fighters [with] better techniques.

UA: When was your first fight?

NM: I think I was 18, it was right before I came to Stars. I fought in California. I'd been training for a while and I had won a bunch of jiu-jitsu tournaments. I never thought about fighting but my instructor urged me to compete. There was another one of my teammates who was going to fight as well, so we trained together.

UA: When did your career as a professional fighter begin?

NM: I never planned to fight professionally until I won the Bas Rutten Invitational and Will Hendricks picked me up. He got me a fight in Pancrase and it wasn't until after I fought there, that I really had the drive to fight.

UA: When did you start fighting full time?

NM: It wasn't until this year that I started fighting full time. When I fought my first fight in Pancrase I was still going to school, I had a girlfriend, and I was working full time. I was doing too many things so I left school, and when I made enough money, I quit my job and made this my full time job.

UA: How did your parents react to your decision to be a professional fighter?

NM: They were fine with it. It was more when I started fighting that they didn't like it. The decision was gradual so they understood.

UA: Tell us about your conditioning training and diet?

NM: To get my physical body ready, I start several things six weeks before the fight date. I run five times a week, lift weights three-to-four times a week, do callisthenic and strength training three times per week, spar and drill technique six days a week, and stretch everyday. With all this training, rest and diet are very important. I usually sleep 10 hours a day and rest on Sunday. I eat five-to-six times a day and drink a lot of fluids. Meals always consist of a large amount of protein and also carbs and fats. I usually get my protein from tuna, chicken or beef and get my carbs from rice, fruits, and pasta. I drink protein shakes a few times a day to supplement my diet. Also, when I am preparing for a fight, I don't drink any alcohol as it will affect training on the days and weeks following.
UA: How did you become the first middleweight King of Pancrase?

NM: It was last year, the first fight was one night; the semi finals and finals were another night. My first fight I beat Daiju Takase by KO with a knee. My second fight was a decision over Kunioku and the final match was a decision over Shonie Carter

UA: What did it feel like to win such a big title?

NM: I was always so focused on doing my best that I never thought about winning or losing. I never had doubted myself, but when I won, it all kinda hit me at once. It was very emotional, unbelievable. It was something I had always dreamed about; it was overwhelming.

UA: What has becoming KOP done for you?

NM: It has completely changed my life. If I hadn't won that tournament I probably wouldn't be fighting fulltime now. I get a lot more recognition as a fighter. I get to fight better fighters and it lets me stay more focused on my training.

UA: Does Pancrase treat you well as champion?

NM: Yes, but even when I was staying in Japan last summer before I was the champion they treated me really well. I'm not really sure if there's a difference. Pancrase treats their fighters really well and being a foreigner, everyone makes me feel at home.

UA: What is it like living in the dojo in Japan?

NM: I love it. The young boys cook and clean and do my laundry. I can eat as much as I need-I get free protein and anything I need for my training. I live in a tiny room and there's usually a couple other fighters living in there as well, so that's a little uncomfortable.

UA: You have proven yourself in Pancrase. How do you feel you rank among the rest of the middleweights in the world?

NM: I don't feel that there is anyone I can't beat. Even though I know that I am going to improve and that there are certain areas that I need to improve upon-and I will-even right now, I don't think that there is anyone I can't beat. I also know, at the same time, that I can be beaten on any given day, but I would never go into a fight thinking I was going to lose.

UA: Are there any fighters out there whom you would like to fight?

NM: Yes, I want a rematch against Gil Castillo because he beat me by decision. He was a very strong opponent and I think it would be good for me to fight him again. Hayato Sakurai is a really good opponent. He is very technical, has good standup, good takedowns, good groundwork, and good submissions. I think that if there was any way I could fight him in some kind of title fight, it would be one of the best matches ever.

UA: In regards to Castillo, how did that fight go?

NM: It was obviously a close fight; it was actually a split decision. It depends on how you score the match. I wasn't upset that they declared him the winner because I knew I had fought well. I was always going for a finish. He dominated on the positions a lot, though he didn't attempt any finishes. I don't feel I need to make any excuses because I fought well and he is a good opponent. There is no reason for me to feel ashamed of that loss, but I would like to fight him again because I know the mistakes I made, so I think I could finish him.

UA: You have beaten Shonie Carter and Yves Edwards who recently fought in the UFC. Do you see yourself fighting in the octagon in the future?

NM: I think it's a good possibility. I don't know when or even if it'll be soon. I think it's the biggest thing in the U.S. right now and I live in America, so it is a possibility.

UA: Is there anyone you'd like to fight in the UFC?

NM: Whoever the champ is, probably Dave Menne. Eventually I want to go up in weight and fight people in that weight class.

UA: Gil Castillo recently lost to Menne. Do you think you could beat him?

NM: Like I said, I don't think there is anyone I couldn't beat. I think it would be a good fight. I would be a little outweighed. I'm about 175 naturally and I think he's about 185. I think technique-wise, I'd have him standing and on the ground. He's pretty good standing up, but I still think I would have the advantage.

UA: Do you consider yourself more of a grappler or a striker?

NM: I don't think there are many guys out there who are as good at submissions as me, and the guys who are as good as me in submissions don't have the standup that I have. I don't think many guys have the standup that I have either, so I wouldn't consider myself one or the other. I have been working on takedowns a lot because it has been one of my weaknesses, so I wouldn't call myself a wrestler, but I wouldn't say I'm more of a grappler or striker because I like to do both.

UA: Who do you train with for striking?

NM: I train in Muay Thai and boxing at Stars and at 3-D Martial Arts in Denver. Duane Ludwig is one of my training partners. He has excellent technique for Muay Thai and boxing. I have trained with guys in Japan who fight K-1 or pro Muay Thai, and Duane is just as good if not better. Most of the time he teaches me kickboxing techniques and I teach him grappling.

UA: How does your training in Japan differ from your training in the U.S.?

NM: In Japan you have 10-20 pro fighters all in one place at the same time. I spar six days a week and I train with three different gyms. I train at a striking gym with the famous kyokushin fighter Kurosawa. I train with guys like Yoshiki Takahashi who fought Wallid Ismail in the UFC, Yuki Kondo, and Kei Yamamiya (P-s Lab). They're fairly well rounded; they can strike and wrestle. I train at Grabaka with [Sanae] Kikuta san and [Yuki] Sasaki and [Akihiro] Gono. Kikuta won at Abu Dhabi this year (87kg). They're mainly grapplers.

UA: Are there any fighters in the US who you'd like to train with?

NM: There are lots of fighters who I'd like to train with. Chuck Liddell is really good, not just at striking but at the transitions between striking and wrestling.

UA: What fighters did you look up to when you started fighting?

NM: Frank Shamrock, because he was really well rounded, and Bas Rutten for the same reason.

UA: Bas Rutten was at your Pancrase fight in October. He said he was there to see you. How does it feel to see someone who you looked up to cheering you on?

NM: It was really cool seeing him there; I had no idea he was going to be there. I could hear him giving me advice during the fight and it helped.

UA: What did you say to the crowd after you won that fight?

NM: Minasan konbawa, tsugi wa Kunioku san onegai shimasu. Nihon daisuki doumo arigato goziamasu.

(Good evening everyone, next time it will be Mr. Kunioku. I love Japan! Thank you very much)

UA: Have you learned a lot of Japanese in your trips to Japan?

NM: I've gone five times. I've learned basic words and phrases but I need to take a class to really learn to speak Japanese.

UA: What differences have you noticed about Japanese culture that you like?

NM: Well you can take almost anything over here and notice differences. They are really polite here and they think about the way their actions will affect other people. In America it's more about how it's going to affect me, which is good and bad, because in America people are more independent. Also, it's really common to see a 26 year old person living with their parents here, even a 35 year old, because unless you're married, there's no reason to move out. They think about how things affect each other.

UA: Do you like living at home in the U.S.?

NM: It's good; my mom helps me out. I don't have to worry about having food in the fridge. I've lived on my own before but it gets lonely, so I like living with my mom and my grandma.

UA: Do you consider yourself close to your family?

NM: Yes, very close. Both my parents have really helped me and supported me. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be where I'm at right now.

UA: What's it like being famous in Japan?

NM: It's quite a bit different because in Colorado no one really knows what NHB or MMA is, and those who do know about it, only know because of the first UFCs and they don't really understand where it's at now. In Japan, even people who aren't fans understand what I do because it's just a part of their culture.

UA: Are the fans different?

NM: Yeah, you can take the average person off the street in Japan and they will sit and watch and look for techniques and things like that. If you take a person off the street in America, they'll wonder what he's doing and why he's not hitting him.

UA: Are you used to being in the spotlight?

NM: Yeah, I'm still a little shy so it's a little uncomfortable, but it's getting easier.

UA: What do you think needs to be done in the U.S. to make MMA as popular as it is in Japan?

NM: I think it's up to the promoters and the fighters. Some of the American ground and pound fighters are pretty boring to watch. I think it's up to the fighters to learn how to do submissions and striking and make it a spectator sport rather than just getting a decision win because you took him down once each round and hit him in the ribs for 5 minutes. Also, I think it's up to the promoters to make their shows exciting to watch and not choose fighters just because they win, but because of how they fight. That's what makes a fighter famous over here, it's not whether he wins or loses, it's how he fights.

UA: Do you prefer fighting in the ring or cage?

NM: I prefer the ring, because this is a sport for the audience, I think that's the most important thing. I don't mind the cage if you can push off the fence, then it's good. You can use the ring in the same way, you can pin people in the corners, but I think there's less chance of getting hurt in the ring because it's more flexible.

UA: How does being a fighter affect your social life?

NM: It's ok, I can't go out every night and when I go out I can't drink, but I think that's a good thing.

UA: What is the best thing about being a fighter?

NM: I get to tell girls I'm a fighter (laughs). I love Martial Arts and that's what I do, so I guess the best part is that I do what I love. Fighting is so challenging, there is so much to learn, so many styles and strategies. You have to have endurance and strength, you have to be aggressive and calm, you have to be an athlete. I don't think there is any aspect of an athlete that mixed martial arts doesn't include.

UA: What do girls think of it?

NM: They're surprised at first, but I think they kinda like it. I've got two things going for me in Japan, I'm American and I'm a fighter, back home I'm just a fighter.

UA: What is the hardest thing about MMA?

NM: It's physically draining, it's hard work, it's tough to deal with all the injuries all the time. I'm trying to gain weight so I have to eat all the time. It's mentally draining too, always having to put in 100% every day. This part, being in another country away from family and friends is hard too.

UA: What are your long term goals as a fighter?

NM: Long term, I want to improve technique and my strength. I want to go up in weight eventually. After fighting I want stay in this business, whether it's teaching full time in my own gym, managing fighters, or being a promoter. I think it would be a waste to spend so many years training and not pass it on.

UA: If you could do anything else besides mixed martial arts, what would it be?

NM: Away from MMA, I would probably be some other kind of athlete. I was always involved in sports; my parents would ask me what I wanted to be and I always wanted to be whatever I was doing at the time whether it be soccer, basketball, or whatever. When I went to college I never really knew what I wanted to be so it felt like a waste of time, so I would say I would still be an athlete of some kind.

UA: In your most recent fight against Kunioku, you lost the title, how did you feel about the decision and your performance?

NM: Well, of course I'm upset about losing my title. I didn't really agree with the decision, but sometimes that's the way it goes in this business. I was more upset about that (my performance). I thought I was winning so I started to play it safe and not take too many chances because I was winning. Looking back it didn't matter, so I'm upset that I didn't take more chances.

UA: You fought Kunioku twice before and you won both times by close decisions. Did you think if it went to a decision, they would give it to Kunioku?

NM: Actually I had planned on finishing him. I didn't think it would go to a decision. During the fight I thought that it might go to a decision, but I thought I was going to win the decision.

UA: Since you had fought Kunioku before, was it easy to prepare mentally for this fight?

NM: Not really. I knew he was a powerful and tricky opponent. Personally, I like to know little about my opponent before the fight so that way I can do all of my thinking in the ring.

UA: What does this loss do for you?

NM: I can learn a lot of things from it. I made a few technical mistakes that I have to correct. I should never count on winning a decision. I should always take chances no matter where we are in the match. I can look at it as a good thing for me because now I have to work harder to get the title back. It makes me hungry to train harder and get the title again. Sometime in the beginning of next year I'm going to Brazil to train with someone, but it's undecided still where it's going to be.

UA: At 22 years old you are already a King of Pancrase, what do you want to do next?

NM: Make lots of money!

UA: As a fighter, do you have any goals that you haven't accomplished yet?

NM: Make lots of money!



Nathan Marquardt: The King Comes Home
by Thomas Gerbasi 


There are few titles in the world of sports that sound cooler than 'King of Pancrase'. In fact, I can't think of a single one. There are champions, titlists, and winners, but not Kings. Nathan Marquardt is the reigning middleweight King of Pancrase, and despite this royal moniker and his nickname, 'The Great', the 22-year-old is remarkably humble, and still in awe of his accomplishments.

"It was pretty unbelievable," Marquardt told MaxFighting as he prepared for his match tomorrow with King of the Cage middleweight champ Gil Castillo at the IFC's Warrior's Challenge. "Actually it was kind of shocking because it was something that I had only dreamed about when I was younger, watching older fighters like Funaki and Shamrock. It was pretty unbelievable, and it took a few months for it to actually set in that I had won such a big title."

Oddly enough, the Colorado resident had dreamed of stardom in Japan's Pancrase organization, not the usual dreams of an American youngster. "The school I was going to actually trained with open palm strikes," Marquardt explains. "We did that for a couple of years and so we had all the Pancrase tapes. That was one of them, and UFC is another one that is kind of like a dream to get."

The UFC may be knocking on the door soon, as the middleweight wunderkind has stormed onto the world scene with his Pancrase exploits, and is currently ranked in the Mixed Martial Arts Media Top Ten rankings. And while his loyalty to the Pancrase organization runs deep, ("I will always want to go back to Japan to defend my title," he says), Marquardt is looking forward to possibly fighting in the States on a more consistent basis.

"I think it's great," said Marquardt regarding the recent exploits of Zuffa within the MMA world. "I was really impressed with the last UFC. I think that it's great that it's going to get back on cable, and with all these changes, and with it getting sanctioned, it's going to be more acceptable. It's going to be more appealing to fight in the US than it was before."

The first step to establishing his name in the States is the showdown with Castillo, an evenly matched bout that has 'Fight of the Year' written all over it. It's his first US match since a Ring of Fire victory in April of 2000, and in an ironic twist, Marquardt is the unknown quantity in this match, which may be an adjustment since he is a known star in Japan. Marquardt takes it all in stride though, and he remembers his change from unknown to star in Japan. "The fans will be very quiet when you fight until you start putting together some wins," he said. "Then they will start cheering for you. Then once you become a favorite over there, the fans are very enthusiastic and loyal. The Japanese fans are very respectful. They won't just run up and start talking to me."

To those who haven't been following matters in the Land of the Rising Sun, Pancrase is no longer using open hand strikes in competition. The rules are similar to those used in US MMA matches, and if you think Marquardt is not ready for US-style fights, think again. "I've never had an open hand fight in Pancrase," he said. "I've only done NHB style matches. The first fight I had was like a special match. They were still doing the palm strikes but my match was a special match where they did the closed fist. A month later they changed the Pancrase rules to all closed fist."

Marquardt's first fight in Pancrase, against well-regarded Genki Sudo, was a loss by armbar in December of 1999. But the youngster was not discouraged. "Before my first fight it was nerve racking," he admits. "He beat me but I knew that I was better than him, and I knew that if I stuck with the training, I could accomplish a lot. It kind of put a fire in me to train harder and go back and win my fights."

He hasn't lost since. In September of last year he took the King of Pancrase title with a decision over US star Shonie Carter. "It went to overtime," he remembers. "The first ten minutes were kind of boring, except that I got him in a triangle choke right off the bat and I almost had him. He eventually got out, and he ended up knocking me down one time later in the fight, so they called the first round a draw. In the second round I had him in the guard and I reversed him over with a kimura lock. He turned and gave me his back and I sunk in a rear choke. I had him fully flattened out and then the bell rang like three seconds after I had the choke sunk in. They gave the decision to me after that."

But at 22, wasn't there some resentment from the older fighters towards this young American making noise in Japan? "No," said Marquardt. "Actually they like it. The Pancrase guys think it's great that I'm so young and already the champion. I can only get better from here on out, and I have a lot of fighting time before I retire. Being a champion this young is good because I can continue to fight for a long time."

Initially, such a statement wasn't music to the ears of the Marquardt family, but eventually, they came around to the life ambitions of the King. "It was negative over the first few fights that I had until they saw that it was not just a bar brawl," he said. "They saw that there was a lot of technique and that it was a sport with real athletes. They kind of warmed up to the idea."

"It was kind of a gradual thing," said Marquardt of his decision to fight for a living. "I would fight at these little grappling tournaments here in the States, and I would get better and better, and continue to win. Then I' d fight the no holds barred fights and continue to win and get better, and I realized that I had been given a gift. It was something I didn't want to stop. And once I fought in Pancrase, I knew that I could do well even though I lost my first fight. I had it set in my head that I could do well."

Managed by Will Hendricks and Phyllis Lee, two of the most respected figures in MMA, the sky is the limit for Marquardt. But as a 'King' and a future US star, is it difficult to keep things 'normal'? "It's pretty hard because I' m close to my family, friends and training partners," he said. "I have to leave to go to Japan to fight, and then I'll stay there and train. I also have a lot of friends out in Japan now too. It's pretty hard, but it's one of the sacrifices I've had to make to get to the level that I'm at. I still hang out with my friends, but basically I've seen where I've gotten in my life as far as my career, and a lot of my friends, like the ones that went to college, they're still partying and whatever, and they haven't really gotten anywhere."

Hail to the King!




Mixed Martial Arts has come a long way from being the enigma that was introduced to the world to the competitive chess game that fighters are now well versed in. Everyday, there are new names, new faces, and new well-bred athletes that are emerging from the woodworks--out with the old and in with the new. You have big named fighters hanging on to their titles and new game coming in and becoming their successors. For a young fighter from the U.S. who is known in Japan but has not received the publicity to match his skill level, the current "King of Pancrase" has a lot to tell the world and to let everyone know that he plans to stay in reign because he's just getting started. Nathan Marquardt--the current King of Pancrase--fought in the International Fighting Championships against Gil Castillo on July 18th, 2001 and gave one of the most memorable (most technical) matches to be seen yet. It was from then on, that people wanted to know more about this determined, versatile competitor who gave Gil Castillo a run for his money that evening.

Marquardt is a risk taker and that makes him an exciting fighter to watch. He goes for the finish from almost any position. Whether it is a right cross or a flying triangle from the standup position, he forces his opponents to defend attempt after attempt to end the fight in spectacular fashion. For that reason, combined with his confident ring presence, Marquardt's stock has skyrocketed in Japan is is sure to hit the ceiling in the States soon. Read for yourself who Nathan is (from the fighter's voice) and judge for yourself to see if you think this "reigning" terror will continue to rise up above the rest, in this exclusive Grappler's World Fighter's Profile.

GW: Can you tell us a little bit about your background--where you're from originally and how you got into the martial arts?

NM: When I was 17, I started training at a school close to home called "Tracy's Karate." This particular school taught Kenpo, Shootfighting, and Arnis. The head instructor was Alastair McNiven whom I still train with to this day. After I started competing professionally, I mainly trained at "Colorado Stars Training Center."

GW: What made you get into MMA?

NM: In high school, I was very small. I wanted to learn how to defend myself. I saw a "UFC" tape and wanted to learn at a school that taught both standup and ground. I looked around and found the best school for me.

GW: How did you get into competing in Japan?

NM: In August of 1999 I fought in the "Bas Rutten Invitational" and won it. Will Hendricks was there scouting. He asked me if I would be interested in fighting in "Pancrase." Ever since I watched Pancrase it was a dream of mine to fight in it, so of course I said yes. He then put me on a contract with himself and Phyllis Lee.

GW: Have you ever fought in the U.S. or have you been exclusive in Japan only?

NM: Many of my first fights were in the USA. Since I started in Pancrase, my focus has mainly been in Japan. You can look up my fighter profile on our gym Web site at

GW: What school ?

NM: I train and teach at Pancrase America the "Stars Training Center" in Broomfield, Colorado.  

GW: Would you like to get opportunities to fight for other organizations?
NM:Yes, but I leave most of that up to my managers.

GW: What is the one ultimate goal you wish to accomplish with your fight career?
NM: There are many goals that I have set for myself. Basically, I want to be the best fighter in my weight class and I want to be a fan pleasing fighter.

GW: Name some fighter's that you've fought that were some of the toughest challengers?

NM: Kunioku Kiuma is one of my rivals. I have fought him twice and although I won both times, I was not able to finish him. I will fight him again and my only goal will be to finish him. Gil Castillo was also a tough opponent. I have never had an easy opponent.

GW: How different is it fighting in Japan as opposed to the U.S.?

NM: Very different! The audience, the promoters, the fighters, the culture, everything is different.

GW: Name two fighter's you'd like to go up against the most?

NM: Hayato "Mach" Sakurai because he is the most well rounded fighter and his technique and power are great. I also want a rematch with Gil Castillo, because he was very fun to fight and I know I can finish him.

GW: What makes an athlete a role model in your eyes?

NM: Someone who shows a lot of heart, intelligence, kindness, and humility.

GW: Do you think you're a role model?

NM: I am a role model. I also know the influence of a role model and I always keep that in mind.

GW: What's in the future for Nathan?

NM: On October 30th, 2001, I will be in Tokyo, Japan defending my title as "King of Pancrase." I will also be staying there for a while for training. I am also looking into training at another American professional fighter's gym before the fight, but nothing is confirmed yet.

GW: What challenges did you have to face in order to conquer the road to victory as the "King of Pancrase?"

NM: There were so many! I had fought with many injuries in all the fights leading up to the title fight. The night I obtained the title, I fought two matches with a severe viral infection. I stayed in Japan for 4 months prior to that fight for training. I was away from my family and had to choose between my career as a fighter and my girlfriend at that time. After staying there about a month, I felt very lonely and depressed but I stayed because I was getting the best training possible. I had to make many sacrifices to get to where I am now.

GW: What are some of the things that you feel you can work on in your fight game?

NM: The blending of all of my styles. Sometimes I will be so focused on one style that I will abandon my strengths.

GW: Tell us a little bit about your expectations of the Gil Castillo fight.

NM: I didn't really have any expectations of the fight other than him being strong.

GW: When things weren't going as planned in your fight with Gil Castillo, what were some of the things that were going on in your mind and what quick changes did you have to make in order to try and defeat Gil?

NM: I felt I had to finish him quickly, so I was rushing everything. After many attempts, I knew I had to finish him because he was the current champion, so I was forcing everything. I didn't take my time and let things happen like I usually do.

GW: Overall, how do you feel about your match against Gil Castillo?

NM: I don't like losing of course, but it was fun and I don't feel that I was defeated. I just lost a split decision. I felt that I was the better fighter, but he won that day. It was a great fight and I have learned some valuable lessons. It has also lit a fire inside of me.

GW: So, you would like that re-match?

NM: Gil is an excellent fighter and I would love to fight him again. Hopefully he will win his next fight and get the UFC title.

GW: A lot of people in the Mainland USA don't really know who Nathan Marquardt is. Why not tell everyone who you think you are if you had to classify yourself, how you would classify yourself, and what they should expect from you as the fighter in the near future?

NM: I would classify myself as a technical fighter. I am very well-rounded and powerful. I always go for the finish standing and on the ground. In the near future, I will be working on blending my styles and improving my technique, strength, stamina, and flexibility. The next time I fight I will be, as they say in Japan, "level up."

Nathan definitely proved to a sold-out crowd that he's on the right track to achieving the "level-up" status. At twenty-two years of age, this determined athlete has several good years to continue to make headway and has already paved the road to success for his future in MMA. We wish Nathan Marquardt the best of luck in defending his title and GW will continue to keep an eye on this "reigning" terror!