Nate “The Rock” Quarry: “I Am The American Dream”
The former UFC star talks about his depressing childhood, the changes he’s seen in the sport of MMA, what’s in his future and Steven Seagal
By Cameron Conaway
There have been many unique happenings in the UFC over the years. We’ve had a guy fight grapplers while wearing one fully-padded boxing glove, we’ve been able to see slow-motion footage of a tooth flying out of a fighter’s mouth and we’ve watched high-school teachers become world champions. Nate “The Rock” Quarry has a story up there with the best of them. Several stories, actually.
For starters, Quarry grew up in a secluded Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. He wasn’t training in combat arts day-in and day-out from the time he was seven. In fact, he did not even participate in organized sports until age 24 when he entered the world of MMA after watching a UFC.
“My friends and I would drink, and then get all excited and beat the hell out of each other and I wanted to get the upper hand on them,” said Quarry regarding the initial impact watching the sport had on him.
Quarry became a part of history by landing a spot as a competitor on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV. It can’t be stressed enough how much that show spread mixed martial arts fever throughout the world and catapulted a once dying sport into the mainstream. Quarry was there and was a favorite to win as well as a favorite personality amongst the show’s audience.
At UFC 83, Quarry took on Kalib Starnes in what is, to date, still considered one of the most bizarre fights in UFC history. It spawned several YouTube videos that went viral, showing Quarry doing the “running-man,” his way of protesting the fact that Kalib wouldn’t engage with him.
Quarry’s most recent fight was a loss against Jorge Riviera back in March 2010. With injuries accumulating and a facial reconstruction soon to come, the rumor mill has been buzzing with questions about a potential retirement.
FCF: Nate, tell us what you’re up to these days. Where are you training and what’s going on in your life outside of MMA?
NQ: Right now I’m just having fun with my training. I’m working with a few fighters and even managing a great up and coming 185(pound)er. And I’ve got so many relationships with the gyms in the Portland area. I’m at the SportsLab, New Breed Jits, Next Level, Burke Camp and Portland Muay Thai. I just love being welcomed at so many different gyms and having friends and fighters there to train with.
FCF: The last we heard about retirement rumors was sometime in November of 2010. Tell us about your thought process regarding retirement and what’s your current mindset regarding your future as a fighter, coach and media personality?
NQ: Retirement is still something that’s on my mind. It’s been a long tough road. I look at these guys coming up and not only do they have youth on their side, but they’ve been training as long as I have!
When I first started training, (MMA) was then called NHB, I was training with the best guy in all of Oregon. He had gotten his blue belt in Jiu Jitsu two weeks before I joined. There was no mitt work. He hated mitts. He actually shot a training video where he threw the focus mitts in the trash.
His answer was to spar as if your life depended on it, every day. My first sparring session, my nose was broken and blood everywhere. Keep in mind, he was 6 foot 8 and had an amateur boxing background, so as long as he was able to beat the crap out of his students without taking any damage, he was happy. And that was the best place in Oregon to train!
Now I see these kids with legit black belts, with great striking coaches who care about their success. It’s so different now. I remember walking into a boxing gym and signing up. Pretty much the only white guy there. I can and had to beg to get someone to hold mitts for me. The third time I showed up, the old grizzled head coach comes over, ‘Hey you, you hit hard. You wanna box for us?’ My reply, ‘Uh sir, I do this new thing called No Holds Barred where you fight in a cage with wrestling and stuff, so I’m here to get better as an all around fighter.’ He then said, ‘Fine. Get the hell out.’ And that’s how it was.
And now, I’m 39 years old. I’ve had six surgeries (while) pursuing my dream. I’ve been able to get myself and my daughter out of the bad neighborhoods. I really need to look at what’s best for us in the long run. And after the last fight, when she first saw me all busted up, she cried herself to sleep. And that is the last thing I want her to do.
The other day I had a hard time getting off the couch because I was particularly sore and she says, ‘Dad, are you ok?’ I said, ‘Of course I am. Your dad’s always ok.’ She then said, ‘Dad, are you just saying that? Because I read in a magazine where you said you just tell me you’re ok no mad how bad you’re hurt so I don’t worry.’
I don’t want her to worry about me. I want her to know that our future is secure. I’ve always told her, I get punched in the head so you don’t have to. And now as other opportunities come my way, things that are going to be fun and exciting and have the longevity that fighting won’t, I have to consider those options.
Every ride has to end. You can either choose when to get off or you can get thrown off. I’d like to think I’m still in the process of making my choice and then being happy with it.
FCF: As you look back on your career, what sort of growth have you went through, say, since you were in your mid-to-late 20s. How has MMA made you a different person?
NQ: It’s funny you should ask. Great question actually. You want to see an angry kid? Look me up 15 years ago. I have always had a very deep hunger and rage in me.
The way that I was raised, I wasn’t allowed to live my life. I didn’t have a childhood. My youth was being in a cult. Being told I was worthless. Every mistake I made, I wasn’t just a kid making a mistake, I was an embarrassment. No friends. Menial labor jobs. Remember those cool parties you went to in high school? I don’t. I remember going to church three times a week, studying for church on the off days. Going to school. Having to get decent grades or there was hell to pay.
My junior and senior year I worked as a janitor at nights and weekends. Then summer between junior and senior year I worked my night and weekend job as well as a full time job as a house painter.
I had lived my entire life being told what to do. Who to be. What movies I could and couldn’t watch. What people I could and could not talk to. I wasn’t allowed to talk to my own sister because she left the church. No contact at all. Teachers in school hated me because of my religion. One teacher in particular had a child the same age as me in grade school and encouraged him to pick on me. I was spit on, called names.
So, at 24 I was at a party and I saw a UFC on TV. I remember thinking to myself, I am miserable. I hate my life. I’m going to live my life for the first time and do what I want to do. So, I started training and the cult excommunicated me.
My family quit speaking to me, but I was following MY dream for ME. For once in my life, I was going to do what I wanted to! Even the friends that would still talk to me thought it was ridiculous. I remember one conversation I had where a friend said, ‘All you do is train now. You never want to go out and party. What are you going to do with this fighting thing?’ And I said, ‘I have no idea where this road is going to lead me, but for the first time in my life I’m happy.’
And now I have people coming up to me saying, ‘Dude, if you can do what you’ve done with what you’ve come through, then maybe I can too.’ And all I can do is smile.
I left a cult at 24 and started training and no one thought I would make it. At 30, I quit a job with $3,000 in the bank, a two year old baby and a mortgage and no one thought I would make it. I had a spinal fusion back surgery! And no one thought I could make it. Every time everyone told me no, I listened to the one voice that believed in me, even if that one voice was my own because it’s my life.
Now, I’m not filled with rage. Oh, I can still get pissed off. Anyone who’s been around me long enough has seen me at my finest. But I have an amazing little girl and amazing friends who have walked through fire for me and with me. I get to wake up in the morning and do what I want to do. Every morning. I am The American Dream.
FCF: Lastly, what’s new for Nate Quarry? How can your fans best keep in touch with what you’re doing?
NQ: I have so much going on right now, it’s just crazy. I’ve started managing a very small (team) of fighters just because I was tired of seeing them get abused. I’ve got the TV show “American Cage Fighter” that I’m hosting and I’m now a spokesman for NuVasive, the company that pioneered my back surgery and gave me my life back.
It was the most terrifying time of my life, and now it’s become one of the best things in my life because I get to help people who were scared and in pain just like I was. I was able to help Tito Ortiz get the same surgery He had the XLIF, and he’s now fought 3 times since his surgery! Go to www.thebetterwayback.org if you’re suffering from back pain and see what your options are. NuVasive gave me my life back and I’m so happy to be able to help others now too.
My big passion project is Zombie Cage Fighter. I sat down and started writing my life story as a fighter – what I’ve gone through, and added in zombies for some flavor. But it’s not about zombies, it’s about what a man is willing to do to make sure his little girl doesn’t end up like him. I call it a biographical horror. I’ve got shirts there for sale, stickers, gi patches and of course the big petition for (a fight between) Randy Couture and Steven Seagal. Go to the website (www.zombiecagefighter.com) and sign the petition.
Seagal has been taking a lot of credit lately for the work of others. I think now is the time for him to step up and show us if he really is hard to kill.
FCF: What do you mean by taking credit for the work of others?
NQ: Go to YouTube and pull up any of the video interviews (he did) after (Anderson) Silva’s KO of (Vitor) Belfort or of Randy (Couture) losing to (Lyoto) Machida. He states that he was the one telling them to throw the kick and teaching them the front kick. He basically said he invented it, then backtracked it in later interviews saying it was his special touch that made it so deadly.