Rattling the Cage: An Interview with Rory Markham

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 by Tony Reid

Tony Reid-I got your text the other day and you have a pretty big project in the works. Do you want to start out by talking about it a bit?

Rory Markham-I have a film coming out in October called Alex Cross with Matthew Fox, Tyler Perry and Edward Burns and directed by Rob Cohen, who created all The Fast and the Furious and XXX movies. One of my biggest honors was that I got to train Matthew Fox for his fight scenes in the movie. I was blown away to even be in a film with him and it was an even bigger honor to get to train him.

Tony Reid-You are throwing out some pretty big names there, what is it like to even be acting with actors on that level? Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes or do you just get in a mindset where its time to get to work?

Rory Markham-Honestly, nothing could have prepared me better for work in movies and with people more than mixed martial arts, to be in front of large audiences in just your underwear, practically. I’m humbled by the opportunity but at the same time I tell myself “You have gone out there and performed in front of millions of people in your underwear, you will be just fine kid.”

Since filming the movie Matthew Fox has become one of my good friends. He put it like this “Acting is a craft and a craft can be learned but what you do is a talent.” That was one of the biggest things I took away from working on the movie. They (actors) are all good people and honor what we (mixed martial artists) do. I respect what they do and they respect what I’ve done. It’s kind of easy, to be honest.

Tony Reid-Can you talk about the correlation or crossover in terms of discipline from mixed martial arts to the movie industry?

Rory Markham-Absolutely. One the work ethic, movies sound very lucrative but it is a ton of work. It is an incredible amount of work, sometimes 12 hour days. The confidence I gained from stepping into the cage, I always tell myself before a big scene that if I can step into a cage and fight but somehow I can’t make acting absolutely fun and completely enjoy myself then I shouldn’t be here doing this. It was the same thing back in the locker room when I was ready to go out to fight; you look at the other guys and go “Why are we doing this?” I have been fortunate enough to be able to put myself out there and fight and the same thing goes for acting you get that feeling in your stomach, that nervousness, but in my mind I always go back to my experiences in mixed martial arts to calm myself down on the set.

Tony Reid-With all the downtime on set, having a history of being a professional ass kicker must be a good conversation starter.

Rory Markham-Its crazy you mentioned that. I wanted to touch on that. When I was on Alex Cross someone got wind of my highlight reel and it traveled across the movie set like a wildfire. People we coming up to me saying really positive stuff, and assistants and producers were coming up to me saying” So I hear there is something of you on the internet I am supposed to watch.” I was honored and blown away by it all. But yeah, it (being a mixed martial artist) was an easy conversation starter; everyone wants to know what that life is like just like we all want to know what actor’s lives are like. The two correlate really well.

Tony Reid-What is the balancing act like trying to maintain a career in MMA while trying to grow your career in the movie industry?

Rory Markham-Its absolutely difficult, man. I’m confused as to what direction I am going sometimes. Am I taking time away from MMA for acting or am I taking time away from acting for MMA? It’s one of those balancing acts that I am still trying to figure out. It’s a great question and I still don’t have an answer!

Tony Reid-Whether it’s in a cage or ring or on the big screen, what does it mean to you to be an entertainer?

Rory Markham-First of all let me just say these are the best questions I have ever been asked in an interview! I always tell people I want to give them the same thing I gave them in MMA, a movie can be watched and minds can be changed. That’s probably why I fight in MMA, probably because I watched Rocky 100,000 times growing up. Whether people are sitting in a movie theatre or in the crowd for a fight, it makes people have certain feelings, they want to get on a treadmill the next day, and they might want to work harder or be a better man or woman. That thought keeps me focused and is 110% the reason I do what I do.

Tony Reid-Many hardcore fans will remember you most from your run in the IFL. What is your fondest memory of the IFL?

Rory Markham-My favorite moment, absolutely, was during my fight with Pat Healy. He was as tough as nails that kid can fight! I remember very vividly between the second and third round after things were getting tough for me. After I got dropped in the first round, I picked myself up and we fought hard, wrestled hard. I remember raising my hand to the sky and just pumping up the crowd. The fight was in Moline, which was like our backyard, Miletich’s backyard. I just got everybody going, just got the crowd roaring, I remember that roar. That was my fondest memory coupled with my (Brodie) Farber head kick (In the UFC).

Tony Reid-At the age of 20 you met Pat Miletich. Can you talk about how that meeting and decision to train with Pat changed the trajectory and course of your career?

Rory Markham-I went out to Miletich’s for a trial week and once I got there I was about 20 years old, we were in Gold’s Gym at the time. I was so nervous wondering to myself what was going to happen and what I was going to do. Well, up walks Pat, he looks like a bent over shark, he tells me I’m staying at the Best Western, tells me he will see me at the 5:30 amateur practice at the other gym.

I had a great practice, about an hour or so and then I was sitting on the sidelines and in walks Lawler, Pulver, Silvia, Franklin, I mean everybody. I was thinking to myself how incredibly cool this sight was, just to watch them practice! They were drilling, were one guy wrestles and the other tries to defend the takedown the whole time while he’s punching at you. It is one of the hardest drills in MMA. I’m sitting there looking at Robbie, Jens, and Matt all of them and the godfather Pat Miletich walks over to me and says “Why don’t you jump in that group over there…” I was pooping my pants just being there and now I’m going to wrestle these guys. I don’t know how to wrestle I’m lucky I know how to box. So I jumped in there and just got thrashed. And I had watched Robbie fights about 100 times before I went down there so I was awestruck. But the kid that I had gone out there with, he was there for the week trial as well, he asked “Mr. Miletich where should I go?” and Pat said “Just stand there and watch.” So I knew at that point that there was some separation, that I could really do this.

Tony Reid-I read, and correct me if I’m wrong but at the tender age of 13 you were competing in bare knuckle fights against grown men?

Rory Markham-Yes that is true. I think I watch the video tape about once a month. This poor guy, he was probably 29 years old, he had the receding hairline, I was 168 pounds, and I was a big kid. It was so crazy, I knocked him unconscious. I remember when I went to go receive my trophy at the end of the day, he’s standing there with his wife and kids and it just put it in perspective for me, like man I can be really good at this! But yes, the story is absolutely true.

Tony Reid-Is there one thing or moment you have seen since the beginning of your career in MMA that has just blown you away as far as the growth of the sport?

Rory Markham-When I walked out with Matt Hughes when he fought Georges St. Pierre the second time. I had never seen an arena so full, so full of energy and life. I thought to myself “Whoa, this thing is getting huge.” I remember back when I started I had to pay $237 for my own stitches. I had always known that, like a stock broker, I had given myself an opportunity at an early age to trust in it (the growth of the sport). I knew it would be the best and biggest sport on the planet. People comprehend it (fighting) in a different way than other sports because it’s primordial.