By Paul Hilleard
On 6th October 2016 the Ultimate Fighting Championship made history by signing Jack ‘Hammer’ Marshman, the company’s first ever Welsh fighter.
The 26-year-old from Abertillery, Gwent, has been training under the watchful eye of Richard Shore, at the Tillery Combat MMA Academy, for over 10 years. Shore spoke of his close relationship with Marshman by claiming to have “shed a tear” when he heard the news. Marshman, meanwhile, thanked his coach, who he first met when he was 15-years-old.
He said “I’ve had a long and tough MMA career with huge ups and massive downs and Richard has stuck by my side throughout.
“If it wasn’t for him (Shore) and my team at Tillery Combat – I had my doubts and thought about knocking it on the head – but they pushed me to a world title and now a UFC contract.”
However, Marshman does not see getting to the UFC as an end goal, instead he believes this to be “just the beginning”.
That beginning will take place at UFC Fight Night 99 Belfast, on November 19, at the SSE Arena against Swedish-born fighter Magnus Cedenblad. Cedenblad holds a professional record of 14-4 and has competed in the UFC since 2012. Of the five fights he has competed in for the company, Cedenblad lost only his debut and is currently riding a four-win streak (twice by guillotine choke, unanimous decision and TKO).
Marshman also comes into this fight with a winning streak of six, with only one of those wins being by decision. Marshman holds an amateur record of 2-1, defeating two of his opponents in the same night at G&S Fight Night 2 in 2007, when he was only 16-years-old. The ‘Hammer’ turned professional a few weeks after his 20th birthday, which has led to him fighting for multiple organizations, including BAMMA and Cage Warriors (which was recently bought by the UFC), racking up a professional record of 20-5.
Although this is a brilliant time in the life of the former solider – Marshman was a Lance Corporal with the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment – his new contract is somewhat bittersweet. He must now relinquish his Cage Warriors Middleweight Championship (185lbs), a title he has held since his TKO victory over Christopher Jacquelin in July of this year.
Marshman follows in the path of many other former Cage Warrior competitors, who have had to let go of their championships to further their MMA career on the road to the UFC. Current UFC Women’s Strawweight (115lb) Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk previously held the CW Strawweight Championship. Most famously, Conor McGregor had to relinquish both his CW Lightweight (155Lb) and Featherweight (145Lb) championships before making the leap to the UFC.
So, as Jack ‘Hammer’ Marshman prepares to make history as the first ever Welshman to set inside the octagon, what does this mean for the rest of the Welsh MMA community? The door is wide open. The ‘Hammer’ took it off its hinges, and in doing so, he has given hope to Welsh teams and fighters, proving that it is possible to make it into the major leagues of MMA.
And with the mass amount off Welsh talent such as Lewis ‘The Foot’ Long, John “The White Mike Tyson” Phillips, Brett ‘The Pikey’ Johns, Ffion Eira Davies, Jack Shore, Joshua Ellis and Aaron Khalid and the sheer amount of high quality MMA clubs in Wales, I’m sure Jack Marshman won’t be alone for long.