EXCLUSIVE | Julian Marquez Discusses Potential Fight With Israel Adesanya, Shares Ideal Timeframe for Return

Marquez vs Stewart FOX 26
WINNIPEG, CANADA - DECEMBER 16: (R-L) Julian Marquez punches Darren Stewart of England in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Bell MTS Place on December 16, 2017 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Julian Marquez made his UFC debut at UFC on FOX 26 after delivering one of the most brutal knockout finishes Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series has seen to date. Following a Fight of the Night performance in his UFC debut, Marquez is looking to get back in the cage ASAP. In an exclusive interview with BJPenn.com, “The Cuban Missile Crisis” detailed his time before the UFC, his performance thus far under the UFC banner, as well as what may be next for him.

I want to start out with your time before the UFC. The lone loss in your career was your Bellator debut fight. Can you take me through that fight and your feelings following the loss as well as how you went on to change your career trajectory?

I was training for a year before that fight, I turned pro in 2014. A year went by that no one would fight me. I had nine fights that fell through. I was sitting there and had gotten to the point where I had spent too much money, didn’t have enough time, I was stressed out and just done. I went and saw a mental coach named Jeff Miner with the triumph program and we pretty much sat there and worked on my mind and it got to the point where I stopped worrying about wins and losses. I was more focused on myself. It wasn’t until going into that Bellator fight, I hadn’t fought in over a year after starting out 2-0 and it was my first weight cut to 185. I just went out there and fought and tried my best not to care. I fought so hard, man. I was tired physically, but not mentally. When the fight was over, it was a bummer taking that loss. I have a poster of us standing there as the decision was read and above that image, it says “This is why you train harder” right above it. I stopped caring about winning and losing a long time ago. I want to be that guy when they look at me they go, “Fuck, I gotta fight Julian?”

Following the loss, you rebounded with three straight finish wins all within two rounds. This landed you on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. You delivered arguably the most devastating knockout the series has seen yet over a highly touted prospect in Phil Hawes. Can you take me through the process that went into that bout?

I’ve been the dark horse in every situation. Everyone pegs me as that brawler that’s more seen as a stepping stone. I’m more well-rounded than given credit for and that’s the same thing in the Hawes fight, you know? Everybody wanted him to win and no one knew who the hell Julian Marquez was. That’s still sort of how it is, but they’ll know who I am eventually. I went into that fight with no pressure because no one even knew who I was. You could feel his anxiety when he took me down. You could feel his nervous energy. He wouldn’t strike at all. It felt like he was holding me down just to get through the round so he could try and do that the next time. He wasn’t trying to finish the fight. When I gave him that head kick, I actually thought I got disqualified. When he got up and he threw the kick, I thought he wasn’t up yet. I didn’t even know the kick put him out when the ref stepped in. When it landed it felt so soft! I landed more with the foot then the shin. I literally had thought I lost and then I turned around and saw he was laying flat and then it all started to click after he stood back up and I realized he was okay. It was pretty intense.

In your UFC debut, you had a brawl for the ages in FotN with Darren Stewart. It was back and forth, a fight where you got to display a lot more than just your punching power. An excellent chin, submission and wrestling skills, etc. How did it feel to validate your success following The Contender Series and throw your name in the hat of hot prospects at 185?

As far as my UFC debut goes, my opinion is no one checks the comment box, only the win column. I got a lot of fans out of it, got Fight of the Night. Was it a clean, beautiful performance like you see from the top guys? No, it wasn’t and I’m not happy that I wasn’t quite able to calm my nerves and adrenaline quite yet but again, sometimes you get sloppy fights and sometimes you get perfect fights. Each fighter brings something different out of you. Darren Stewart came in there on short notice, a true warrior and helped me get my UFC debut. I went in there with no gameplan, just went in there and fought. I was happy to get in there and get hit. I was excited. It was good to show that I have a more well-rounded game. As far as validation goes, I don’t really care what everyone else thinks to be honest.

Your twitter blew up during the UFC 221 broadcast following the debut of a fellow Middleweight prospect, Israel Adesanya when you tweeted, “I’m sorry, who just fought again? I’m at work.” Fans took that as a veiled call-out. Can you expand on that exchange a bit? Is Adesanya a fight you would like next?

Hahaha! I didn’t know it was construed that way but I was legitimately asking who had just fought! I was at work. I work Friday and Saturday nights. It was really busy for me. I was literally at work catering to all my guests and I would run back into the break room and try and catch some of the fights on the TV then run back out and do what I had to do. So I started asking for updates on Twitter and low and behold it was right after his fights and Twitter ran with it. There was no shade what so ever though. I’m only interested in calling out whoever has the gold. You can put me with anyone in the division and I don’t care. They’re just who I have to get through to get to the gold. Gold is the only goal I’ve had since 2003. I would definitely fight Adesanya and anyone else in the division. I’d gladly fight him. If everyone wants us to fight then let’s do it. Another one I get a lot from fans is Paulo Costa. I’ll take either of them. I think me vs. Adesanya could be a Fight Night Main Event if we were built up a bit more and it happened later down the line. Either way, if Mick called me up and told me he was next I’m taking the fight without a doubt.

When do you see yourself back in the octagon for your next fight and how many times are you looking to step into the cage in 2018? Are there any opponents in particular you’re looking to square off against?

I honestly have no clue when they’re going to get me in my next fight. I’ve been sitting here, just got tested by USADA the other day so I’m thinking that may mean they’ll offer me a fight within the next month or so. I’ve been training a lot of technique more than live sparring. Focusing on expanding and leveling up. Whenever they’re ready to call me up is when I’m going to go. I’d love to be on the Stipe vs. Cormier card, that would be so sick. UFC 225 in Chicago would be awesome too. If I could fight three times this year that would be great but budget wise I think twice makes more sense for me. If they want me to have a quick turnaround it would be awesome to pull a Donald Cerrone and get four to five fights in that would be awesome too.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/28/2018.