For some mixed martial artists, fighting a friend or training partner is simply out of the question.
Most notably is the case of current UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and his adopted protégé, B.C.’s Rory MacDonald, who joined the Montrealer’s Tristar Gym in recent years and whom many believe is the future of the 170-pound class.
The world-class facility’s owner Firas Zahabi said one of the rules they have is that gym members do not fight each other, and both have said they would never fight a close friend and training partner anyway.
But apparently some fighters feel differently.
For example, Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt, a friend and training partner of GSP, who defends his belt against Tarec Saffiedine on the organization’s final event Saturday in Oklahoma City. Marquardt, who fought formerly in the UFC as a middleweight, told MMAfighting.com’s Ariel Helwani that he would be open to fighting St-Pierre in a title unification bout should he emerge victorious this weekend.
Asked if he should face the winner of the UFC 158 headlining bout between St-Pierre and Nick Diaz, Marquardt said, with a smile, “Of course, yeah.”
He backtracked a bit, but only slightly.
“Obviously, I’d rather not fight Georges. He’s my friend and training partner for a long time now. But like I said, I’m not in a position to turn down a fight. So I’d rather not fight him but I’m not going to turn down any fights.”
Whether St-Pierre would want to fight Marquardt is another question. Unlike with MacDonald, the two don’t train together full-time and are probably not as close.
Marquardt wasn’t the only one making headlines on that front this week. Former Pride, UFC and Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Dan Henderson also said he wouldn’t rule out a fight against teammate Chael Sonnen.
“We’re friends, but above all we fight now in the same category and therefore have the same goal. We both compete for the same belt,” Jones told tatame.com. “Our friendship is more than a title and we are professional enough to let the rivalry be just inside the Octagon. It would be a different situation, but our profession in this type of situation is quite possible to happen.”
The two, who both train at Team Quest in Portland, Ore., currently have scheduled fights; Henderson faces Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 on Feb. 23, while Sonnen challenges 205-pound title-holder Jon Jones at UFC 159 on April 27.
Henderson was previously the No. 1 contender and set to face Jones last September before suffering an injury less than two weeks before their UFC 151 bout. Sonnen said he was willing to step in on short notice, but Jones declined the matchup, leading to the cancellation of the Sept. 1, 2012 event.
Jones instead fought Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 three weeks later in Toronto, then the UFC made Jones and Sonnen opposing coaches of this season of The Ultimate Fighter, as the organization was looking to capitalize on the trash-talking that had already gone on between them.
This left Henderson out in the cold, and the fact that Sonnen got a title shot in his first fight at 205 pounds — while coming off a loss in a middleweight championship bout against Anderson Silva — led Henderson and many others to believe Sonnen was undeserving.
There doesn’t appear to be any bad blood between Henderson and Sonnen, but the fact that he declares he’s willing to fight him says something.
NOTES: The UFC officially announced this week that the April 27 card, which will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will be titled “UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen.” The main card will be on pay-per-view, while preliminary fights will be on Sportsnet. It is preceded by the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter, which debuts on Jan. 22, airing first on FX Canada and tape delayed on Sportsnet.