Julian Marquez: More Than a Fighter
I’ll start here by saying that I’m truly grateful for every fighter that has taken time out of their day to have a conversation with me, whether it’s before a fight, after a fight or between fights to talk about plans for the future; A fortnight ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Julian Marquez following his big win over Darren Stewart back in the middle of December. I’d been keen to speak to Julian for a while and had finally managed to arrange an interview with the man himself.
We’ve seen more and more fighters of late drift away from who they really are, with the end game of trying to promote a fight or garner a reputation for something other than being a consummate professional. From the moment he answered the phone, it was clear that I was speaking to the exact same man that I’d seen from behind the television screen; there was nothing fake about the excitable interview following his UFC debut, and there was a real aura around ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’ – as you’d expect from someone with that nickname.
I’d compare it to the first time that I spoke with Kevin Lee; Although the two personalities seem worlds apart, ‘The Mo Town Phenom’ is as genuine as they come – you can hear in his voice that he really is that confident about being the man to dethrone Khabib Nurmagomedov, as much as others may doubt him. Without getting too off track, that is the feeling you get with Marquez, he speaks with a unique precision in which you really feel and believe every word he says, whether it’s to crack a joke or speak of his title credentials.
Once the formalities were over, I opened by asking Julian whether it was reassuring heading into a fight, knowing that he has the equalising credentials to finish a fight at any time, as demonstrated by his 100% success percentage of finishing every single one of his 7 wins; ‘No’ he responded aptly, before explaining ‘It doesn’t mean anything, there are a lot of things I have to work on’. He didn’t finish there, despite winning in his last outing, he clearly isn’t prepared to settle and expect a finish each time he steps into the octagon, as he continued to say ‘Just because I have finishes doesn’t mean anything, it just means that day I was the victor, that’s all. Every day I still have to wake up and make sure I train everything, so I can continue winning in different ways’.
We spoke with Zak Cummings (who was in the corner for Marquez’s UFC debut) a few weeks prior to this conversation and he remarked that the game plan seemed to go out of the window once the first klaxon sounded; Marquez responded appropriately to those comments ‘Hell no it wasn’t in the game plan! It was far from it! It’s adrenaline, that’s all it was in that fight – this is where I wanted to be, this is who I am and I’ll keep saying that over and over again throughout my career. I finally got the opportunity to be able to go in there, my adrenaline was roasting to the point where I didn’t really take a second to relax, so when I went in that cage my adrenaline was SO high and I was unable to control it’. It’s rare to see a fighter speak on adrenaline, or nerves and so it was refreshing to know that not every fighter is a stone faced gladiator that they so appropriately portray once they are face to face in the cage.
I wondered if there was a moment during the fight, where it almost clicks with a fighter that it is going to be ‘one of those’ fights that we as fans so greatly adore, but coaches and fighters prepare so vehemently to avoid. ‘No, I had the same exact kind of fight before and I didn’t realise it was gonna be that kind of fight, it just happened to turn into one of them and I thought ‘fuck it, we’re going’ he recalled.
Looking back at the fight, Julian said ‘There’s a time to be pretty, and there’s a time not to be pretty. Every fighter is gonna bring a different fighter out of you, that night Darren Stewart just brought that kind of fighter out of me’. Engaging in firefights has certainly not phased the 27 year old middleweight, as he bluntly stated ‘It’s not pretty, it’s not how all the specialists say fighting should be, but that’s ok, I don’t wanna be like everyone else’.
If you’re expecting to see the exact same Julian Marquez next time he fights, then you may be disappointed; He says he’ll be a far calmer prospect next time he gets in there – ‘I’m gonna be a completely different person, I’ll be more improved. Not many people have the chance to have a lesson learned from a win, a lot of people just get those when they lose. I’ve watched that fight over and over and I can see a million more lessons’.
Marquez is one of the benefactors of the new UFC Performance Institute and one of the perks to training there in Vegas is the array of talent that enters the gym. As well as his regular coaches Marvin Easterman, John Wood, Zak Cummings and James Krause, Julian was able to gain some valuable advice from an unlikely source following his latest triumph; He reminisced, telling me ‘I talked to Jeremy Stephens about adrenaline and it was the coolest thing in the world, he said ‘Hey man, you need to run’, he told me that, he said running will help with the adrenaline, he said ‘I know it sucks but it’ll help you out controlling your body’ and the funny thing is, I believe every word he says because I used to run, and this is the first fight that I did not run’.
The ultimate goals of the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ are simple (with a twist), when asked the question, he responded ‘We’re going for gold, but we’re not just going for gold like everybody else’, continuing to explain ‘. Everybody else wants the fame, everybody else wants this cool stuff, but we’re going for gold and we’re gonna make it a fight, they’re gonna be wild, they’re gonna be crazy, they’re gonna be exciting and we’re gonna have fun the whole entire way, we’re gonna enjoy every single bit of it. We’re gonna call people out on dance offs, beard offs and some other stuff that I’ve got planned. This is my time, this is my era’.
He referenced his now famous ‘Beard-off’ interview in the previous quote; for Marquez, his post-fight interviews will be just as important as the fight itself as he looks to really get his personality out there to the wider audience – ‘Whenever people get the mic, they wanna call out the next fighter and do what you’re supposed to do, but I’m not like everybody else, I’ll never be like everybody else, I’m one of one, I’m Julian Marquez and I’ll always be Julian Marquez and Julian Marquez says that after every interview, fight and victory, I’m gonna stand in that cage and I don’t know what’s gonna come to me, but I’ve had 15 minutes to think about it. That 15 minutes of fame, that stuff is real, I’m not gonna waste it on calling out fights, I’m more than just a fighter , I have a lot of things I wanna accomplish and a lot of things that I wanna do and I also have a lot of things that I wanna say. Why waste my time on the microphone talking about the next fight or what just happened in the fight that people just watched? Let’s ask some different questions and then you’ll get a different side of me, everyone will know that I’m not just a physical fighter; I’m a fun person, with a beautiful beard’
Marquez’s introduction to MMA came from his wrestling roots and watching PRIDE with his father, as I’m sure was the same for many guys on the roster today; much like the fighters back then, Julian isn’t overly fussed as to who he fights next and is just waiting for the call ‘I’m nobody, I’m just another name in the UFC fight now, so whenever they give me a matchup, I’ll be ready’.
Just as I thought our interview was concluded, he demonstrated his quirky personality once again and decided to flip the script and interview me, which was certainly a first. If the young prospect can keep winning, and keep getting his personality out there, then there is sure to be a huge future for him both inside and outside of MMA. Keep your eyes peeled for Julian Marquez, as he said – he’s more than just a fighter.