"I loved basketball and I was really good," Marquardt says. "I saw the kids who made the team and knew I was better than [some of them], so I felt I was being discriminated against because I was shorter and smaller. It kind of turned me off of all team sports. That's when I started martial arts, and I just fell in love with it."
The lead up to the fight is the toughest thing about being a fighter, according to Marquardt. The training is tough, especially the beatings you take sparring three times a week, 5-6 five-minute rounds at a time. And the shark tank drill, in which you spar a fresh fighter each round for up to 45 minutes, has made grown men cry. But the mental aspect can be equally grueling. "The buildup is what makes fighting so hard," Wittman says.
"It's the pressure of the countdown: three weeks, two weeks, one week, the press conference and weigh-in, and at last the fight. It's hard on the soul. The toughness isn't just from taking a punch and fighting through it. The toughness is dealing with yourself. It's a big mind trip."
While Marquardt isn't immune to this mental pressure, he tries not to show it. "I've been in the locker room with other fighters when they're warming up or getting their hands wrapped before a fight, and they'll say, 'I don't know why I do this,'" Marquardt says. "And tough guys, too. I'm one of those guys who don't show it even if I feel nervous. I've learned to enjoy the fear of the unknown. I think, this is what I've been training for, and it's finally here and I'm excited. Only a certain percentage of athletes can do that."
For the rest of our story on Nate "The Great" Marquardt pick up the August issue of M&F.