In a sense, Jack Marshman and the British military are on the same page.
Marshman raised plenty of eyebrows in the lead-up to his most recent fight at UFC London when he revealed that he was competing at the event without the approval of his army employers. On the positive side, he went on to win a split decision against fellow Welsh middleweight John Phillips to halt a two-fight skid; on the negative side, he got a serious slap on the wrist from his superiors.
Appearing on The MMA Hour on Monday, Marshman said he had received a “formal warning” from the army for not following their instructions and that another one this year could result in him being discharged. Though he certainly wouldn’t want to end his tenure with military in that fashion, the 29-year-old fighter is looking forward to leaving that job to focus on MMA.
“I’m leaving anyway, I’ve given my year’s notice because on the fourth of November that will be my 12-year point, so that’s me signing off now,” Marshman said.
As for how Marshman ended up getting in trouble in the first place, he attributes the situation to a breakdown in communication.
“My officer in command knew that I was fighting and he had basically okay’d it,” Marshman said. “But it came from above him that I wasn’t allowed to fight and the day I was going to fight week, on the Tuesday, I had a text message off my RCMO (Regimental Careers Management Officer) telling me I wasn’t gonna be fighting. … I just sort of went with it anyway.”
Now Marshman has given his notice, though not because of the UFC London incident. Marshman has been with the British military for over a decade (he currently serves as a paratrooper for the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment) and is looking to collect his half-pension before moving on.
A year from now, he expects to be able to dedicate all of his time to MMA.
“I want to continue fighting,” Marshman said of his reason for leaving the army. “I’ve been doing this for, like, 12 years.
“I’m fighting a really high level, I made it to the UFC, I’ve just been offered a new contract, and I got really far but at the minute my job is a soldier. I’m a professional soldier and I’m not training the same ways as everyone else.”
Marshman explained that his military responsibilities could prevent him from training for up to seven or eight months at a time if he was assigned a tour of duty. Making things more difficult is that while the United Kingdom does have programs that allow soldiers to officially represent their respective military organizations in various sports, MMA is not one of them.
For Marshman, it’s a frustrating reminder of how far behind some decision makers are in catching up with the times.
“We’re stuck in the past,” Marshman said. “MMA is not a recognized sport in the army. If I was just doing boxing, if I was boxing as a professional boxer, I’d be on that professional athlete’s contract. But MMA is not recognized because they haven’t got the governing bodies and stuff over here the same. So it’s really difficult. …
“The British army’s got a fishing team, any sport you can actually think of, they support it, but they haven’t got an MMA team, which is ridiculous. It’s the fastest-growing sport.”
Marshman’s attempts to convince military officials to support MMA have led to them suggesting a “crazy rule set” that isn’t conducive to what he’s trying to accomplish.
So far, Marshman has done well enough for himself juggling his duties as a paratrooper and an athlete, going 23-8 in 31 pro bouts. After competing in a few amateur fights before joining the army, he continued to pursue MMA while also training with the army’s boxing team and he kept busy as the U.K. scene blossomed. Back in July 2016, Marshman won a vacant Cage Warriors middleweight title and four months later he made his UFC debut with a TKO win over Magnus Cedenblad.
And though he’s put in the paperwork to end his days of jumping out of airplanes, he’s grateful to the military for having his back all throughout.
“They love it,” Marshman said of the reception he receives from his fellow servicemen. “They’ve been supporting me for years as in all the blokes that I’ve worked with. They turn up to all my fights all over the country and they love it, I got massive support from the army.”