UFC: Jack Marshman 'honoured' to be first Welshman

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Jack Marshman - UFC's first Welshman

"There are some days where I don't want to come to the gym. Some days my body's in bits because I've been smashing it all week."

Jack Marshman joined the army at 17 and served in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.

A physically demanding career complemented Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training up to three times a day, with appearances for the Para's infamous boxing team in the past.

Twenty-five professional MMA fights later, he is now moving to compete in the sport full-time, leaving the army for a four-fight contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) worth "enough to live on".

He will make his UFC debut against Sweden's Magnus Cedenblad at UFC Fight Night 99 at the SSE Arena in Belfast on 19 November.

"It's a bit of an honour to be the first Welsh guy and I hope it opens the door for all the other guys," says Marshman, who is nicknamed "The Hammer".

MMA is a combat sport which sees competitors use a variety of techniques from wrestling, kickboxing and other martial arts.

In UFC, the sport's top competition, fights take place inside an eight-sided cage known as the Octagon and a win is by knockout, points or submission.

UFC claims to reach a worldwide audience of 1.2 billion and 26-year-old Marshman from Abertillery has become the first Welshman to join.

"I've got a good coach and team behind me who'll get me to the gym and motivate you," Marshman says.

His home gym is Tillery Combat in Blaina, Blaenau Gwent, where coach Richard Shore says there is a hotbed of talent waiting to join Marshman - and he is surprised it has taken so long for a Welsh fighter to make it to that level.

"We have been the forgotten nation in Wales - there are people from Ireland, Scotland and England signed to UFC," says Shore.

Richard Shore
Richard Shore is Jack Marshaman's coach at the Tillery Combat gym in Blaina

"And if they ever came to Wales to put a show on we'd probably fill the Principality Stadium.

"But we're there now, and for the whole of Wales this should give everybody that bit of drive to push to the next level.

"It's like winning the lottery, to be honest. It's a bit like if I was coaching a local football team and one of my players was selected to go and play with [Cristiano] Ronaldo at Real Madrid in the Champions League."

Marshman says the difference was "sticking at it" even when training became tough, with the help and encouragement of Shore at the gym.

"Even when I had little doubts in the back of my head he kept telling me - and here we are," Marshman adds.

James Elliot, UFC Europe's vice-president, says he and his colleagues are excited to see what Marshman can achieve.

"For anyone who makes it to this level, these are the best fighters in the world, the best martial artists in the world," Elliott says.

"He has his four-fight contract now. We'll see how he gets on and hopefully he'll be with the UFC for a long time.

Michael Bisping
Michael Bisping became the first Briton to win a UFC title

"Performances will dictate where he goes from here.

"Everyone wants their own heroes, everyone wants their own people to get behind and it's great that Wales now has that.

"Hopefully he can press on and bring the whole country with him - certainly when we announced we'd signed him our social media feeds went on fire."

So who in UFC is Marshman is looking to emulate?

The first Englishman to become a UFC champion was fellow middleweight Michael Bisping, graduating, like Marshman, from the 'Cage Warriors' title.

"That's the sort of mindset I'd like to get in and follow in them kind of footsteps," Marshman says.

He is certainly not setting his sights too low.