After his surprising release just over a year ago, Eliot Marshall (10-2) will make his return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) when he meets hard-hitting Brazilian Luiz Cane (10-3) as part of the UFC 128 ‘Prelims' special from Newark, New Jersey, this Saturday night (March 19) on Spike TV.
"The Fire" was first introduced to fight fans as a competitor on the promotion's Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality series for season eight. Marshall says that while the situation he was in wasn't the best, he had no qualms with his cast members.
"The situation sucked, but I was never uncomfortable with anyone. We were all there for the same thing and we all wanted to win, but we all got along pretty well."
Marshall proved to be a threat on the popular reality show when he submitted current M-1 Global middleweight Shane Primm. Marshall says that while Primm may be good, he's not on "The Fire's" level when it comes to the ground game.
"I wasn't surprised because I knew I was way better than him on the ground. Shane is a good fighter, but when it went to ground he was in deep water and I was the shark. He couldn't handle me on the ground."
Marshall challenged Ryan Bader and his wish was granted. Despite numerous submission attempts, Marshall was not able to avoid the wrestling of "Darth" and came up short via unanimous decision.
While "The Fire" admits he lost the fight with no strings attached, he feels Bader could have pushed the pace and engage more.
"He won by the rules, fair and square. I was pissed because I felt he played it safe and didn't engage. I mean good for him for not letting me get an arm or a leg, but it was also a cautious fight on his part."
Marshall was offered a fight with the UFC against Jules Bruchez at TUF 8 finale. "The Fire" made quick work of Bruchez with a first round submission victory via rear-naked choke.
"Everyone needs to prove that they belong in the UFC every fight. I actually think everyone on the show got a chance that night. They told us you win you're in. Lose and you're out, so I went out there hungry to make an impression."
At UFC 97, Marshall earned a unanimous decision victory over submission ace and TUF 8 finalist Vinny Magalhaes. While "Pezao" still feels he won the contest, "The Fire" believes the fight was all his.
"That was my first big fight in the UFC and I thought I clearly won. He only got two takedowns and I got right back up each time, so the judges were right to give me the victory. People always want to speculate about decision victories, but sometimes you just have to say the judges were right and move on."
Despite a split decision victory over Jason Brilz, Marshall was released after coming up short in his last UFC bout to Vladimir Matyushenko by split decision. While the cut surprised experts and fans alike, Marshall wasn't complaining.
"I was surprised too, but at the same time, it allowed me to go to different shows and get some experience there. I racked up three more wins and now I'm coming back to the UFC stronger than ever. No one likes to be cut, but now that I have been, I'm not afraid of it. I can go out there and just fight because I know that if I do get cut again (and I hope I don't), I'll be fine."
Now "The Fire" will find himself back inside the Octagon in his hometown. Marshall says that when he heard Karlos Vemola was injured, he wasn't waiting for a phone call from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva.
"Actually my big reaction was when I found out Vemola was injured. I had heard of two other light heavyweights being injured earlier in the same week, so when Karlos got hurt I was immediately on the phone with my managers telling them to get me that fight. I made it very clear too. I didn't want them to wait a single minute. I wanted to step into that fight and I think it only took about two hours for the UFC to say yes. I feel you have to be a little proactive if you want to get good fights. You can't just sit around waiting for the phone to ring."
Marshall will be in for a challenge when he throws leather with "Banha." A key to success for "The Fire" is a sound strategy.
"I don't think anyone in MMA has something that no one has seen yet. There's no great secret weapon that will win a fight for you. It all comes down to strategy and timing really. You have to be peaking at the right time and have a sound strategy. I believe a sound game plan and hard training will win the day."
Both Cane and Marshall have earned black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. While Marshall acknowledges that anything can happen in mixed martial arts (MMA), he still feels he's better on the ground than his opponent.
"I always have an advantage on the ground. Obviously it depends on the opponent and game plan, but I feel I'm a better grappler than almost anyone in the light heavyweight division. I've dedicated a large part of my life to jiu-jitsu, so I'm very confident when the fight goes to ground."
Marshall took the time to thank his management team as well as a well-known family in the world of MMA.
"All my training partners at Grudge, my management team at Alchemist, and the Gracie family for inspiring me."