by Matt Lo Cascio
It’s been over six years since Rory Markham last fought in a cage. For fighters like Markham, the gnawing never goes away. It’s the bird singing outside your window early in the morning. You close the window but you still hear it. You plug your ears and put the pillow over your head. You still hear it. Eventually, there is nothing left to do but one thing: wake up. Consider Rory Markham awake.
“My soul needs this. My time spent on this earth will not be complete until I achieve what I set out to do since the beginning — to test myself in the sport of MMA. It’s what I was meant to do in this world. All the other things I’m passionate about and want to pursue will come with ease if I do this 100-percent,” Markham told Chicago’s MMA.
Markham will begin that test anew when he fights Eric Hammerich at XFO 58 in Lake Geneva, live on UFC Fight Pass. This will not be a feel-good stroll down memory lane for Markham, but more of an exorcism. This is a life test, one he must pass in order to put regrets to bed and leave them in the past, once and for all.
“I was a young man when I first entered the UFC and I made a promise to myself, the UFC and to my beloved fans that I would fight my heart out. I did not do that. I am definitely looking to return to finest stage in the sport and prove that I am a man of my word.”
His fans might not remember it that way. They remember the guy in the IFL and UFC that was simply wrecking people. Markham was the antithesis of a point-fighter, with all 16 of his wins ending by knockout or submission. Even in defeat it was death before dishonor for Markham, with all six of his losses ending by knockout. Those numbers seem to make the case that he left it all on the line, but he disagrees.
“I fell victim to complacency. In my previous fights I was always 100% all-in. Once I arrived in the UFC and the major accolades started to pour in I relished the moment a little too long. Once you get to that stage it isn’t time to rest on your laurels — it is time to pour every ounce of yourself into the sport. That is why I must return for myself, my family and most importantly my soul.”
The former Miletich Fighting Systems warrior chose to begin his comeback under the tutelage of two old friends: Jeff Curran and Doug Mango, lead coaches for Team Curran.
“Jeff and I have known one another for over ten years. We’ve fought on the same shows and he had a phenomenal student in Bart Palaszewski who became my good friend and teammate in the IFL. I would see Jeff and Coach Doug Mango at every one of Bart’s fights and watch how well they cared for their fighter. That always stuck with me. I also wanted to head to a place that would welcome me with open arms because of our history and mutual respect for one another. They have the time and knowledge behind their craft to help mold me into the best fighter I can possibly be. Jeff putting the finishing touches on what my mentor Pat Miletich created is a seamless effort. Jeff and I are great friends and he is an incredible coach, but most importantly he is master in his discipline of BJJ under the legendary Pedro Sauer. So I’ve benefited in many ways by hanging my hat at Team Curran.”
If you follow Markham or any of the Team Curran fighters on social media, you can see that he has been reinvigorated by his new team. He’s living in the gym for this training camp, and the youth and exuberance of his teammates has already paid dividends. It’s been everything he hoped for in making a comeback.
“It’s been extremely therapeutic. I’m doing what I love again. With that comes a serenity that can only be achieved by doing what God wants you to do. I truly believe I am meant to be where I am at and achieve great things in this world.”
He now has the perfect frame of mind to achieve his goals, something he didn’t always have in the past. But one of his mindsets hasn’t changed: when you enter the cage it is to seek and destroy, and anything less is unacceptable.
“I believe the way I fight was born in me. I have had some great wars at Pat’s gym that have built my confidence in the ring and honed my ability to go for the kill. I simply don’t know how to fight any other way.”
Every Markham fight has ended before the final bell. It’s a methodology that might now be considered old school. “I didn’t realize it was a rarity these days until you pointed it out. I do find myself hitting fast forward a lot more than I use to when watching MMA.” That’s not a knock on the current wave of fighters, it’s just the way the game has changed.
While Markham certainly will have some new and refined skills when he fights on May 20, don’t expect anything else to be different. “I come back with my shield or on it. Period.”