After high school, most teenagers are getting drunk at frat parties or living with their parents trying to figure out what to do with their lives.
Not UFC middleweight Nathan Marquardt (24-6-2).
At 19, he dropped everything — college, work and a girlfriend — to chase a dream across the globe in Japan. He didn't know the language — or people for that matter — but it didn't matter.
He knew how to fight, and that's all he needed.
Today, eight years later, he's one of the top 185-pound mixed martial artists in the world and calls the UFC home.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Nate prior to his upcoming fight with Dean Lister at UFC Fight Night 8 on January 25.
Here it is:
MMAmania: How did you get started in mixed martial arts?
Nate Marquardt: Well, when I saw one of my first UFC events I realized right away that it was something that I wanted to pursue. I started training at a local karate school in Colorado that also offered jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. Things just kind of took off from there, I started learning more and more and competing in tournaments that ultimately led me to Japan.
MMAmania: How exactly did you end up in Japan?
Nate Marquardt: In 1999, I entered and won a tournament called the Bas Rutten Invitational in Japan. At the time, the winner of the tournament earned a spot in the UFC. It's actually how Jens Pulver and a couple of other fighters got their starts. However, the year that I won the tournament the UFC matchmaker at the time wasn't there to offer me a contract so I decided to stick around and eventually got involved with Pancrase.
MMAmania: At only 19 years old, that meant that you had to leave everything behind in the United States, including college, correct?
Nate Marquardt: Yeah, pretty much. I had way too much going on in my life at the time — a full-time job, school and a girlfriend. I just made the decision that all three had to go if I was going to be a successful fighter.
MMAmania: That's a bold move. What did your family think of you decision?
Nate Marquardt: My family was incredibly supportive and they still are. When I was in Japan, I couldn't really work outside of fighting because I didn't know the language. For the most part I just lived off of my fight money. But there were some times my mother and father helped me out so I could follow my dream. It was a big help early in my professional career.
MMAmania: After 29 fights and years of fighting overseas, you finally got the call to compete in the Octagon. What was that like?
Nate Marquardt: It was a dream come true. It's where I've always wanted to be and what I've worked toward my entire career.
MMAmania: From what I see on television and on the Internet, you are a huge 185-pound middleweight. Is it hard for you to make weight?
Nate Marquardt: Actually, I only walk around at 195 pounds. I'm built and have a physique that looks like I am bigger than I actually am. I'm one of the stronger middleweights and probably even stronger than a lot of light heavyweights. But, I only have to cut between 10-15 pounds, which is normal for a fighter in the division. So it's easy for me to make weight.
MMAmania: You train with the Greg Jackson camp in New Mexico, but live in Colorado. How does that work?
Nate Marquardt: I go down there all year round to train for a week or two at a time and then also work in Colorado with the guys at High Altitude. I have a great boxing trainer in Colorado so it's important that I work with him as much as possible. As a fight gets closer, I'll usually spend more time in New Mexico preparing for my opponent. It's something I've been doing for about three years now so I'm used to the routine. The arrangement works out really well for me.
MMAmania: Has working with guys like Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Diego Sanchez and all the others in Jackson's camp improved your game?
Nate Marquardt: Of course, all those guys are great. And anyone can only get better training with talented fighters like that. Duane Ludwig and all the other guys I work with in Colorado also keep me sharp.
MMAmania: In 2006, we only saw you in the Octagon twice. Is there any reason for the relative inactivity?
Nate Marquardt: After I beat Joe Doerksen in March I decided to have surgery on my nose. I had broken it so many times that it actually began giving me trouble — I couldn't breathe. I had basically no airflow in either of my nostrils. So, I decided to finally have it fixed after the fight so I could breathe again. Then, I fought Wallace in October and the Lister match got pushed back.
MMAmania: Speaking of Dean Lister, your opponent this upcoming Thursday, he's a demon on the ground with some serious jiu-jitsu credentials. How did you prepare differently for this fight?
Nate Marquardt: I drilled a lot of ground work. All the guys who I work with have great jiu-jitsu so I just worked with them to get prepared for this fight. I also did my boxing, wrestling and everything else as usual. I'm ready if this fight goes to the ground.
MMAmania: How do you see this fight with Lister unfolding and ultimately ending?
Nate Marquardt: I think he's going to come out and be pretty anxious to get it to the ground. We'll probably scramble for a little bit and he'll use a lot of energy trying to take me down. He might get me down once or twice, but I think that'll work to my advantage. He'll get real tired and that's when I'll start to take the fight over. I want to knock him out.
MMAmania: Your fight with Lister was once guaranteed to be televised and is now the swing bout. Does this give you any extra motivation to finish Lister off in exciting fashion to prove that the decision was a mistake?
Nate Marquardt: I'm going to win anyway possible, I can't worry about those kinds of things. It doesn't change how I'm going to approach the fight. I do, of course, want to end it early if possible. In the end, I think it'll all work out anyway, and my fight will get on television.
MMAmania: You're one of the best fighters in the UFC who a lot of people don't know about. As a top middleweight in the world, why doesn't the UFC do a better job of promoting you or getting you on pay-per-view cards?
Nate Marquardt: You know, the UFC was trying to showcase me on the upcoming UFC Fight Night card but Spike TV made the decision to move it to the swing bout. I'm not really concerned about that right now. I'm still young and if I keep winning those opportunities will come about.
MMAmania: So it doesn't bother you that a guy like Travis Lutter wins a television show and gets a crack at the title before you?
Nate Marquardt: No, man. I'm patient and only 27 years old. I've got a lot of time. I'm hoping that I'll get my shot at the end of this year. I feel that this fight is going to go well and put me in a position to get a title fight soon.
MMAmania: What's your current contract status like with the UFC?
Nate Marquardt: I have three more fights left and I plan on staying.
MMAmania: All that time in Japan doesn't make you want to try Pride or any other promotions? You're happy with the UFC are sure it is the place for you?
Nate Marquardt: Definitely, I want to fight for the UFC.
MMAmania: Okay Nate, thanks for all of your time. We look forward to watching your fight with Dean Lister on January 25 on Spike TV. Want to leave us with any final words or plug any sponsors?
Nate Marquardt: Cool, thank you. I'd just like to thank my sponsors TapOut, United Knee Fund and Surfside Granite.