Daniel Marquette, a 2018 graduate of Concordia, was one of only 10 applicants nationwide awarded a 2021-22 fellowship through a partnership formed between the Gatorade Sports Nutrition Immersion Program and the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA). Marquette was awarded a fellowship with the UFC Performance Institute (UFC PI) in Las Vegas.
Every year, host sites/mentors around the country apply to host a sports nutrition fellow and CPSDA matches the 10 applicants with host sites. This allows professionals entering the world of sports nutrition to gain experience alongside a veteran sports dietitian in Division I or professional athletics.
“Due to my background in wrestling and interest in helping athletes competing in weight class or combat sports, I was paired with Clint Wattenberg at UFC PI,” Marquette said.
A wrestler since high school, Marquette was also a member of the Cobber wrestling team.
“Wrestling, being a weight-class sport, has a very strong connection with nutrition,” Marquette said. “This exposed me to many different nutrition-related theories when it came to making weight and optimizing athletic performance, which sparked my initial interest in nutrition and human performance. When I started school at Concordia, I was unaware of nutrition as a career path. But after taking a general nutrition class my freshman year, I found it a perfect fit and decided to switch to exercise science and nutrition/dietetics after learning about sports nutrition as a career route.”
Marquette credits his background as a wrestler and his advisor, Professor Emeritus Dr. Betty Larson, as having influenced his decision to pursue this career path. He said Larson introduced him to the wide range of careers available in nutrition and it showcased the need for nutrition for professional athletes.
After graduating from Concordia with a double major in nutrition/dietetics and exercise science, Marquette attended South Dakota State University to complete a dietetic internship program while pursuing a master’s degree in exercise science. It was while at SDSU that he applied for the fellowship.
“I am the only Gatorade sports nutrition fellow at the UFC PI,” he said. “All of the other fellows work with a wide variety of collegiate athletes at their host sites ranging from football, track and field, soccer, and any other collegiate sport at their university.”
The UFC Performance Institute is the official mixed martial arts (MMA) facility for American promotion of Ultimate Fighting Championship. The institute provides a global resource to UFC athletes and coaches around the world, delivering elite-level programs that support MMA athletes with all their personal development, fight preparation, and rehabilitation needs. The UFC PI is a one-of-a-kind, 30,000 square-foot facility that employs professionals in sports psychology, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sports science. Each service is complimentary to every athlete on the UFC roster.
Marquette works alongside a team of four full-time sports dietitians to provide UFC athletes with nutritional interventions to best support their health and athletic performance.
“Every athlete that I work with is a professional MMA athlete with a current contract with the UFC; however, working with each athlete is very unique,” Marquette said. “The main responsibilities that I hold as a member of the nutrition team include assessing and tracking body composition, measuring energy expenditure, assessing weight division fit, providing nutrition education and medical nutrition therapy, creating meal plans, and helping athletes safely and effectively make weight for competition.”
To get a glimpse of what athletes can expect from the UFC PI, view the UFC Performance Institute: The Evolution of MMA video.
Marquette, a Hastings, Minn., native remarked on the uniqueness of the area he’s currently working in. The Las Vegas/Henderson area has more than a million people, so it’s much more than just the Strip. And the weather is new to him, too.
“It took a bit of time for me to get used to the weather. It was about 120 degrees when I moved out here, but it is very nice now (in October). We frequently travel to national parks, go hiking, attend sporting events, and so much more,” he said. “I hope to continue working as a sports dietitian with combat sports/wrestling. I enjoy what I do, and I love being able to apply everything I have learned in school to help solve the challenges each weight-class sport athlete faces.”