Jack Marshman – From Humble Beginnings
By Emma J Bramford
In 2007 at Nantyglo Leisure Centre, a 15-year-old Jack Marshman took part in his first ever mixed martial arts (MMA) contest, in front of a crowd of around 200 people. Back then, there were no cages to compete in, and Jack fought his first MMA fight on mats.
Having fought twice in the same day and winning both contests, Jack was hooked on this experience and began working hard to make a career out of the sport he fell in love with.
Twelve years later at the age of 27, all of Jack’s hard work and determination paid off when he was signed to the UFC, and in the process, made history by being becoming the first Welsh mixed martial artist to be contracted to the world’s number one promotion.
Born and raised in a tough area of Abertillery, South Wales, an area known for drugs, crime, and a lack of job opportunities, Jack decided he wanted to better himself and stay out of trouble, so he enrolled at a local gym which is where he met his current coach, Richard Shore.
“I started training with Richard when I was 15,” Jack recalls. “We trained at a local gym and then after about a year or so he opened Tillery Combat, which started in a tiny little cellar underneath a nightclub. Over the last thirteen years, our gym has expanded, and we now have a stable of over 30 fighters in our gym, including some top-level pros. Richard coached the first Welsh fighter to get into the UFC, so it’s been brilliant working with him.”
At the age of 17, Jack decided he was going to join the Army. He chose the Paras as it was the hardest division to get into, probably because Jack is a stubborn person and when he decides he wants to do something, he will do everything to achieve it. Serving in The Third Battalion Parachute Regiment as a Lance Corporal, Jack saw his fair share of action during his first tour back in 2008 in Afghanistan when he was just 18 years old.
Then in 2010-11, he went back to Afghanistan for a second tour. Despite being on active duty overseas, Jack joined the Third Battalion and Three Paras boxing team for the army, so he was always keeping up with his love of combat sports. So much so, Jack boxed for Wales in Sweden.
“The feeling was amazing, having won a Welsh vest, which out of all my achievements, that’s one of the ones I’m particularly proud of. It’s an honour having a Welsh vest. Also, boxing in Sweden for my country was an amazing feeling, along with boxing for the Welsh under 15’s.”
Coming from a boxing background, it seemed fitting for Jack to go to ex-welsh world champion boxer Gavin Rees to help him improve his boxing skills over the last 6 years, in order to become the all round mixed martial artist that he is today.
“Originally he just started coming up and doing a little of work with me at Tillery Combat. In the end, though, because he’s got his boxing club, he couldn’t carry on doing that, so I travel to him daily and I’m improving a massive amount with him.”
The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu purple belt has openly admitted that although he has taken part in grappling competitions before and won several medals, those competitions are not currently on his radar, although he is not ruling it out.
“I’m not an avid competitor on the BJJ circuit. It’s not my thing. You’ve only got to look at the number of fights I’ve had in MMA. I’m constantly on a fight camp training for a fight, but I’ve won the Welsh Open in purple belt category, when I was a blue belt. I have entered a lot of competitions and I’ve beat some good guys in grappling competitions, but I’m not an avid competitor. In terms of competing on an event like Polaris, it is something I could look at in the future. My grappling is getting better now, and it’s something to train for when you don’t have a fight booked. For the moment, I’m interested in MMA fights, and that’s my focus for now.”
Training out of Wales’ infamous Tillery Combat Gym which has been home for Jack for the last 15 years, the gym is producing some of Wales’ top calibre athletes.
“The gym is busy every single night, and there are about 30 good fighters on the roster. Some people do it as a hobby, but we have about 30 fighters, and the team spirit is unbelievable. The lads are here helping each other out, drilling things, working things that they’ve done. I love the club. It’s a big part of me. I think what sells the gym is the way Richard trains people. He gets you mentally prepared as well as physically prepared, it’s like a big family at the gym. We all get along so well it’s such a laugh, and that’s what I think makes better fighters. We’ve got a good team behind us. It’s not just one individual fighter, it’s a full team every time we go out.”
As with any career over time, there are some losses in which sometimes can make you doubt yourself and your own ability. For Jack though, while there have been some of those times, the positives have outweighed the negatives.
“Being in the army for the last 13 years, it’s hard to coincide the two careers. I’m training hard, but I know other guys have the privilege of being able to train full-time, whereas I’ve got to do six months in Afghanistan or wherever, every couple of months. It gets hard. You take a couple of losses. I don’t mind losing. It’s that if I haven’t been able to train fully for a fight, then I haven’t put on my best performance, then I hate losing. That’s happened in my career. That’s the only time I’ve ever thought about hanging up the gloves.
“When I started fighting, I was working hard, but I was doing it because I enjoyed fighting. I didn’t have a goal. Then suddenly I started winning titles, and I was competing on big shows. You start to think, ‘hold on, I can make something of this’. I had already turned pro by the time I thought I was going to start taking it seriously. Even when I turned pro, it wasn’t like that was going to be it. I started winning titles, and I realised I was good at it. I thought I’d make a go for it and now I’m in the UFC it feels amazing.”
With a current record of 22 wins and eight defeats, Jack has already amassed a fair few titles and belts competing for different organisations, before his call up to the UFC.
“I’ve trained with Richard Shore on my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for years, but I’m more of a defensive grappler. I very rarely get subbed when I’m training and have only ever been subbed once in my whole career.
“BAMMA and Cage Warriors stand out for me, lots of fighters who compete in those organisations go on to compete in the UFC, and that’s what happened in my case.”
When Jack finally got the call up to the UFC and was told he would be facing Magnus Cedenblad at UFC Belfast on November 19th, 2016, it seemed ten years of hard work on the local and regional circuits had finally paid off.
“It’s madness. I got a phone call out of the blue off my manager Graham Boylan. I’ve known I’ve been close to getting to the UFC and that maybe I was one fight away, but I’ve been waiting for a long time. When that phone call comes through you still don’t believe it, it’s what you’ve been working towards for 12 years, and suddenly it comes to fruition. It was just an amazing feeling.”
Having a fighting nickname “The Hammer” since the age of 16 (and is a very apt one for Jack with the amount of TKO/KO’s on his record), Jack recalls how that name was given to him.
“Honest to God, we joke about it now because some people call me “The Hammer”, some people call me “Jack Hammer”. I don’t know which one it is to be honest with you, because my coach gave it to me, but he’s not quite sure which one he prefers. I go to one show, and they call me Jack ‘The Hammer’ and they call me ‘Jack Hammer’. It’s just one of those things. He called me that when I was probably 16 years old, and it stuck.”
For anyone who Is starting in this sport, Jack has the following words of advice for you:
“You’ve got to work hard and stick at it. I’ve had ups and downs in my career, and now I’m reaping the rewards, and I have been signed by the UFC , because I stuck at it. You’ve got to work hard and keep training hard, get out there and get the fights won.”
On his debut at UFC Belfast, on November 19th Jack defeated Magnus Cedenblad via TKO in the 2nd round which also earned him a Performance of the Night Bonus of $50,000.
With a UFC record of two wins and three losses, Jack has been signed to the promotion.
He will face fellow Welsh athlete John Phillips at UFC London on Saturday, March 16th, 2019, proving that with hard work and determination you can reach your dreams.
Not bad for a boy who grew up in one of the poorest parts of South Wales.