For so many mixed martial arts struggling to make it to the big show, success boils down to getting the right break at the right time.
For former WEC light heavyweight champion Doug "The Rhino" Marshall (12-3), it was a poorly timed break that led to his disappearance from national consciousness.
That break, a right hand fracture suffered in his first career fight outside of the organization, came just as the WEC was re-organizing itself into its current form as home of the world's best lighter-weight fighters. Having just relinquished his title to current UFC contender Brian Stann, Marshall was left as the odd man out.
"I had a great run with the WEC," Marshall recently told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "My first 10 fights were in the WEC. I fought at heavyweight, and then I dropped to 205 pounds, where I was the champion.
"In July 2008, I had a fight outside the WEC. I broke my hand against Phil 'The Pain' Collins. That put me back. I got back in the gym, and I re-fractured it in training."
Marshall says he was offered a fight with Tim McKenzie, another WEC veteran who ultimately moved on to the UFC, but his injuries prevented the fight from taking place.
"The WEC did schedule me another fight," Marshall said. "They asked me to fight Tim McKenzie in Sacramento, and I was looking forward to that for obvious reasons – to avenge a loss I had a few years earlier.
"They didn't just dump 'The Rhino.' They gave me a chance, and I couldn't make it."
Shortly after, the decision was made to eliminate the WEC's welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. Some of the organization's fighters were invited to test their skills in the UFC, while others were left to fend for themselves. With Marshall in the middle of a transition to middleweight, he was among those left out in the cold.
Marshall admits it was frustrating to be so close to the ultimate prize, but he's certainly not bitter. Instead, his brief taste of the limelight only fuels his drive to return to the top.
"When the weightclass was dissolved, I was already on my way to 185 pounds," Marshall said. "I guess they were looking at me at 205, but I wasn't there anymore. I was bummed to see guys that I fought on the same card with, guys that I fought in the WEC, to have them go over and me kind of be left behind. But I'm making my run at 185 right now.
"I'm 4-0 at 185 pounds. I want to see if I can get there at 185."
Indeed, a slimmed-down "Rhino" – a pygmy version of his former heavyweight self – is now on a five-fight win streak. He's still proud of his Visalia, Calif., roots and continues to teach Muay Thai at Elite Team Martial Arts in nearby Fresno, Calif. But he's also taken to training in Southern California at King's MMA with Rafael Cordeiro and Cleber Jiu-Jitsu with Cleber Luciano.
In fact, the heavy-handed knockout artist recently received his purple belt from Luciano ("I hang that purple belt right next to my big, gold WEC belt," Marshall says). Now, at 33 years old, Marshall is ready to finish what he began with his professional debut in 2003.
"I want to make it back to the big stage, wherever that is – whether that's in Japan, whether it's Strikeforce, UFC, whatever," Marshall said. "I just want to fight some really tough guys and get myself back on the radar.
"They can't hold me back forever. You knock out so many guys, they're like, 'Alright, let's get this guy in here. He is pretty exciting.'"
The next guy on Marshall's list is "The Ultimate Fighter 11" cast member Kyacey Uscola (18-15). The pair meet in the main event of Thursday night's "Tachi Palace Fights 6: High Stakes" fight card, which airs from Lemoore, Calif., on GoFightLive.tv.
Marshall said he fully expects Uscola to try and take him to the ground, and that's just fine with him.
"I think he's a tough guy," Marshall said. "His wrestling is solid. He's got power in the hands. He likes to stand up for a little while until he gets caught with a heater, and then he'll be looking to take me down, I think. He needs to check my profile though because everybody that's taken me down has been submitted or dispatched quickly."
Of course, fans of "The Rhino" don't tune in to see him expertly maneuver into a perfectly executed omo plata. Those that pay to watch Marshall fight want to see him move forward, guns blazing.
Marshall – who went 7-3 in his time with the WEC and claimed all seven victories by stoppage – says not to worry.
"I do like to stand and trade," Marshall said. "I do want to make it exciting. I'm tired of these fighters going out there and fighting not to lose. 'Oh, I'll just grind out the decision. I'll just take it to the judges.' When I step in there, I'm the judge and the jury.
"I don't need nobody scoring my fights. I'll make the score with the big K.D. – the 'knock dead' where they have to scrape somebody off the floor. The fans love to see that. Win or lose, you bring the fight, you bring the excitement, and you're going to have fans, and they're going to love you, and they're going to be loyal to you. I just love to put on a show."