Someone forgot to tell Travis Marx he was only supposed to go so far.
Viewed as little more than a dark horse upon entering the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 6 bantamweight tournament, the 34-year-old Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative stunned the world-ranked Masakatsu Ueda in the quarterfinal round. The result spoiled the stateside debut of one of Japan’s most accomplished fighters and established Marx as an immediate person of interest at 135 pounds.
“The win over Ueda was definitely the biggest of my career so far, but I’m far from done,” he told Sherdog.com. “I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do yet. I came here to win this tournament. With each fight, I’m taking one more step to the title. I still have a lot left to accomplish.”
The road does not get any easier for the man they call “T-Train.” Marx will toe the line against two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Marcos Galvao in the tournament semifinals at Bellator 68 on Friday at Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Despite a modest 11-5-1 professional record, Galvao, a 29-year-old World Extreme Cagefighting veteran, has found himself on the wrong side of a number of controversial decisions.
“Coming into this tournament, I felt like Ueda and Galvao were the two fighters that most people were looking at as the favorites,” Marx said. “It worked out perfect for me because I wanted to get the two toughest [fighters] out of the way right off the bat. I don’t want the easy road. I didn’t come to Bellator for easy fights. I came here to test myself against the best and to beat the best.
“Did a lot of people expect Ueda to beat me? One hundred percent. Do they expect Galvao to beat me? One hundred percent,” he added. “The thing is I didn’t come here to lose. I came here to win this tournament and get my shot at the title. Other people might consider me an underdog, but I don’t. I came into this thing completely prepared to win. I have total confidence in myself, and, with everything I’ve given up to get here, I’m not going to stop now.”
Galvao has recovered nicely from an ill-fated stint under the WEC banner, which included a horrific knockout at the hands of Damacio Page, Marx’s Jackson’s MMA stablemate. The Nova Uniao standout has won five of his seven fights since, advancing to the Season 6 semifinals with a unanimous nod over Ed West at Bellator 65 on April 13.
“He’s solid,” Marx said. “He’s really tough, and he has a lot of experience in the sport. I think we match up really well, and I think that’s going to make a great fight for all the fans.”
Marx will enter the cage on the strength of a four-fight winning streak. A three-time state wrestling champion in high school, he trained extensively under Jeremy Horn before putting down roots at Jackson’s MMA. Marx thinks he has a technical advantage on the feet, though he admits to being wary of Galvao’s power.
“Galvao hasn’t knocked anyone out yet, but he throws to knock his opponents out,” he said. “He throws those big, looping power punches, and it just takes one of those landing just right to create problems. I plan on staying tight and composed on my feet with technical strikes while pushing the pace.”
The winner of the 135-pound tournament -- Hiroshi Nakamura and Luis Alberto Nogueira will meet in the other semifinal -- will earn the right to challenge reigning bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas. The 23-year-old won the Season 5 draw with wins over West, Wilson Reis and 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Alexis Vila before moving on to dethrone Zach Makovsky for promotional gold. Dantas choked Makovsky unconscious with a second-round arm-triangle choke last month, becoming an instant star in the process. Marx was among those watching, and he took notes.
“Seeing how fast the Bellator tournament was able to transform Eduardo from a top prospect to one of the best bantamweights in the world is incredibly inspiring for me,” he said. “I see myself on some of those prospect lists, and I think, ‘That can be me.’ Whether people knew Eduardo before or not, they do now. With me having just beat Ueda, I’m kind of on the radar now, and I have that same opportunity to establish myself as one of the best fighters at my weight class here with Bellator.”
Marx, who once worked as a state trooper for the Utah Highway Patrol, has put his heart and soul into the tournament.
“This Bellator tournament is the opportunity that me and my family have been sacrificing for,” he said. “This means everything to us right now. I quit my job in law enforcement to focus on my fight career full-time a couple years ago, and it hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to absolutely scrape by. We’ve just had enough for us to get by so I can chase this dream, but we made those sacrifices because I knew what I was capable of and my family believed in me.
“This is my chance to make it all worth it,” Marx added. “It’s all or nothing right now.”