UFC welterweight Demian Maia has made a heartfelt statement about his life as a martial artist, his career and his title aspirations in the lead up to the 170lb championship bout between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson at UFC 209.
Maia may well be the UFC’s most talented martial artist from a traditional standpoint. As a Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor he was highly regarded among the elite, and since making the switch to MMA he has established himself as one of the most dominant grapplers in the sport today. Despite being a former middleweight title challenger, since his move to the welterweight division he has found himself to be in the form of his career, winning his last six in emphatic fashion.
Maia’s style is one that garners him a lot of criticism from some fans of the sport due to his methodical and slow-paced approach to his ground game but there are few, if any, who can match the Brazilian’s control and precision on the mat. For the purists, there is a subtle beauty in the way in which Demian dismantles his opponents and with his latest first round submission victory over Carlos Condit, many would look to him as the next in line for a shot at the welterweight strap, and at whoever should hold it after UFC 209.
With the champion Woodley set to rematch “Wonderboy” Thompson for the belt, many have pointed towards the likes of Jorge Masvidal and even the returning Nick Diaz as Maia’s next potential opponent but recently, in a post on his official Facebook page, the decorated grappler gave the world a lengthy, but poignant, statement on why he feels that he should be next in line for a shot at the 170lb strap.
“I have been reading a lot of things online lately, a lot of speculation, and I have been approached a lot by the press with interview requests because of it, so I decided to come here and express myself directly so everybody can “hear” from me, and know what has been going on.”
“When Dana White said at UFC NY post fight press conference, after Wonderboy and Woodley fought to a draw for the WW title, that I would get the next shot if I want to wait or I could fight somebody else, my understanding was that I had earned my title shot and that it was going to happen sooner or later, and it was my choice if I wanted to remain active or not. I have the biggest respect for Dana, I trust him, and I had seen how Woodley could wait for longer than a year and get his title shot, that ultimately crowned him as a champion, so why would I believe it would be any different with me?
“This year I`ll complete 10 years in the UFC, and I`m very proud of it. I`m the Brazilian fighter with most wins inside the octagon ever, which also make me very proud, and I`m also extremely proud to represent a martial art that became my own life, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Trough all this time in the UFC, my dream and goal has always been to be a champion. Everybody knows money is needed and important for everybody, but that was never what got me out of bed to train every morning. Compete, test myself, be the best I can be, represent what I love and try my best to become a UFC champion is what drives me forward, and because of that no other fight would appeal to me more than a title shot right now, not even a “Money Fight”, which seems to be the flavor of the moment.
“Ever since I dropped to Weltwerweight I have been working hard to climb up the rankings, and it has been a grind. There were wins where I didn`t move up one single spot, I fought several up and comers, guys on winning streaks, and out of 11 fights at WW, with the vast majority being against guys in the top #15 or top #10 at the time, I won 9 fights, all of them either by submission or almost complete domination. My only two losses came against guys with impressive records and in a split decision loss, and a “Fight of the Night” decision loss. Currently I’m in a Six Fight Win Streak, the biggest active winning streak in the division, with my last fight being a 1st Round win against a former champion, who had just challenged for the belt in his previous outing, and left considered by many the real winner of his title shot. After that journey at WW, it was natural for me to consider Dana`s words justified, and the feedback I got from the fans everywhere was that I had earned my title shot no matter what.
During the course of my WW journey, I have seen other fighters get title shots with win streaks that went from just 1 win, to three wins, and even people get a title shot coming of a loss. The only exceptions were Hendricks on his first title shot, and Wonderboy on his title shot, and I always went on record agreeing and understanding that they were the rightful contenders. During those times, I took fights, such as the Condit fight, as as sportsman I understood and agreed with the choices and decisions. Also, even though I was naturally frustrated, I understood that a draw between Wonderboy and Woodley warranted a rematch, even though I had a different take on their fight. But with their next fight just four weeks away, why can`t I have my shot after they fight? If others got their opportunities with less wins, or sometimes close fights? If the next WW fight was months away, I could understand any urgency’s, or a scenario where people feel other guys had to have their chance to claim a spot as the next contender right away. But the WW title fight is pretty much one month away, so It seems only natural to wait, and finally have my chance at WW, as this is what I really care about.
“I have seen a lot of people justify my lack of title shot so far, because I`m not as popular as other guys, or I`m not as outrageous, or because of my fighting style. Sometimes perception is very subjective, and when you see the rumored numbers for many PPV cards headlined by WW Championship fights over recent years, it`s tough to really believe my own title shot would be so much worst than many of the fights that were booked. Also, when you look at social media numbers for many of the former challengers at WW and myself, you don`t also see that much difference to justify what became the perceived truth. Not to mention that biggest star the UFC WW Division had in recent years, was far from being outrageous, and wasn`t and flamboyant striker either.
“I respect Masvidal, Lawler, and each and every MMA fighter that steps inside a cage or a ring. It`s not easy at all, and it`s way more pressure than many people can imagine. Nobody that does this for a living, and even more that get to this level, doesn`t deserve a lot of respect. I have fought many of the top fighters at MW and WW, including maybe the best ever at his prime, and I never had any problem fighting anyone at the right time. I would fight anyone at WW For a belt right now, interim or linear, and when we got the Masvidal fight offered we explained our reasons for being frustrated and wanting to wait for a Title Shot, how the proposed card could impact us financially, but said we would discuss it and come up with a decision. We haven`t even said “no” yet, when news starting to pop up that we had declined the fight. Fair enough I guess, as it`s not what we had in mind anyways.
“The reasons why we had to think, and explained our frustrations are ovious I guess, and I have already touched on them a lot on all those lines above. I have been doing this for a long time, and my dream continues to be the same. There`s nothing I want more right now than fighting for the belt, and with the rematch just weeks away, I hope that I hadn`t understand wrong and that I can have my chance. All I want is an opportunity that others had, sometimes with much less done to get their chances. This is a sport in the end, and even though it`s entertainment, there is no reason why it can`t be treated as a sport and still entertain lots of people. Whatever happens next, I trust Dana and the UFC, a place I have been calling home for the last 10 years, and I`ll continue on my path to become the best I can be. In life you can`t be sure about where you`ll get, so you have to treasure your journey. My journey continues, and we are learning something new every day.”
With the lines between the entertainment and sporting aspects of the game becoming increasingly blurred, the UFC’s next move, as far as the welterweight title picture is concerned, will speak volumes on exactly how the game’s current landscape is affecting its integrity.
If the BJJ wizard Maia is indeed passed up once more it will, unfortunately, be a sad day for mixed martial arts as we once knew it.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena