UCMMA champ Sutherland wants Marquardt fight

ESPN staff
July 7, 2011

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Denniston Sutherland, the Ultimate Challenge MMA middleweight champion, has revealed he would "love" to fight axed UFC star Nate Marquardt, en route to booking his own place in the sport's top promotion.

Sutherland's story is an unusual one, having only started training MMA at the age of 32. The Brit boxed as a teenager, but then over a decade went by without the veteran doing any type of training. Now, with just six years of MMA experience, he is the UCMMA champion, and he is eyeing the UFC.

"I have three goals left in MMA. People tell me to be realistic, but I'm not realistic. If you don't aim high you'll never get anywhere," he tells ESPN. "First goal is to get in the UFC, and second is to win a title in the UFC. The third, which is the hardest, is to be the best ever pound-for-pound. All of that is achievable if I keep working hard.

"I want to be busy. I fought six times last year and it wasn't enough. If I was in the UFC I'd be fighting even more often because they have a card every month, twice a month."

Sutherland has fought a selection of impressive names from the UK MMA scene. His most recent win came via knockout over Mark Weir in June, and he also took Tom Kong Watson to a split decision in October 2009. "I think I beat Watson," maintains Sutherland. "But it just gives me more hunger because I have to live with it. If I beat him nine times, I'd still have to live with that loss."

Sutherland is a fan as well as a fighter, and he admits he has been eyeing a clash with the recently-axed Marquardt. "There's one guy, who just got kicked out - and I'm gutted for him, Nate Marquardt. He's explosive, that's the type of guy I want to fight. I don't want to fight guys I'm supposed to beat. It doesn't motivate me. I want to fight the guys that are supposed to wipe the floor with me."

The keys to Sutherland's success, he claims, are the use of a mind coach and the intelligent use of sparring partners.

"I'm not like other guys. I hear fighters talking about how they train so hard that they get knocked out in training. That's just bad. It's not good for you. I don't take a beating every day. I get tapped on the ground by my coaches often, which is good because you learn. But I don't get knocked out on a regular basis. My sparring partners will rough me up to the body, but it's not smart to get hit in the head too many times. Every time you get knocked out, the less you can take it.

"Here's the thing about starting the sport late, I haven't taken much damage over the years. I don't have the recklessness of youth. When you're young you think you're invincible. I like to fight with my mind intact. I work on it with my mind coach, staying in control at all times."

Sutherland is unusual for a British fighter, preferring a ground game to a stand-up war, although he's comfortable with both. His Achilles heel, though, is a bad referee.

"I'm very paranoid when it comes to refs and judges. I could do without both of them!" he quips, before evaluating his own style. "I'm from a boxing background, so that's always going to be there. But my ground game is my strongest suit, I control things and I'm very good at getting back to me feet. This is MMA, I've never understood why fighters at the top level are one-dimensional. Some fighters seem to think just having a black belt in jiu-jitsu is enough, or just being a K-1 striker is enough. You'll get found out. This is why I'm honing my craft at the lower level. I've made my mistakes, I've had my lessons."

And of that potential clash with Marquardt? "I'd love to fight Marquardt. Particularly if I get paid on a par with him! I'm a champion!"

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