With a six-fight winning streak in the shark-infested UFC welterweight division, Demian Maia has paid his dues when it comes to getting a title shot. He hopes a win over Jorge Masvidal this Saturday at UFC 211 will do the trick and get him that championship fight, but the waiting hasn’t made him want to start using his journalism degree yet.
“Not yet,” Maia laughs. “I have been doing some stuff, like doing commentary for UFC fights on Globo in Brazil and things like that, and there are some projects I'm considering in that area for the future, as I like podcasts and other forms of media. I'm also thinking about starting to write a book, by the way, but it's still far from making me want to stop (fighting). I’m still enjoying being a fighter and I think I still have stuff to do representing BJJ as a competitor.”
Clearly, the 39-year-old contender from Sao Paulo isn’t done chasing gold yet, and why would he be? Over the course of his current streak, he has looked to be in the best form of his career, with submissions over Matt Brown and Carlos Condit in his last two fights making fight fans sit up and make their call for him to get a crack at the crown. But whether he’s fighting Jorge Masvidal or champion Tyron Woodley, the focus remains unchanged.
“Honestly, at this point I don't even think about it,” he said. “It has become a situation I can't control and if you look at the WW division over the past few years, a lot of other guys have got title shots for less. Most fans think I should have got it already and I didn’t get it yet, so there's no way of knowing what will happen and certainly if I don't win the fight against Masvidal, it won't help at all. My focus is on that fight, as this is what I can control. The rest doesn't matter right now.”
And while the obvious perks of being a UFC champion are more money, more prestige and bigger fights, the significance of getting the belt is different for Maia.
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“Everybody knows that being a champion is my goal,” he said. “It would mean that you achieved your ultimate goal as a competitor, and I have been a martial artist and a competitor for more than 20 years now. And at this point, I'm caring more about my legacy, what example I can give to people, to my kids, and to continue to represent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts the best way I can, so I can make a positive impact in some people's lives in some way.”
Jiu-Jitsu is what put Maia on the MMA map, and it’s his return to focusing on his ground game that has given him new life at 170 pounds. But was he a natural?
“When I started out in Jiu-Jitsu I was quickly in love with it,” he said. “It was something that fascinated me and I was training a lot, several times a day. People say I learned fast, and I got my black belt in a few years, but although that may be true, the reality is that I trained a lot, started teaching classes, and in Jiu-Jitsu you are really literally learning every day; it never ends. So it all comes with dedication.”
He has such dedication to the art that when asked if there was a particular moment when he knew he has something special on the mat, he laughs and says, “I don’t know it yet.”
That humble nature, grace and respect for the sport has made Maia a fan favorite as he approaches the pivotal bout with Masvidal this weekend. And no matter what happens, his love for the game won’t ever fade.
“I love what I do, and I didn't choose this profession because of money,” he said. “Don't get me wrong, money is important and us fighters deserve to be compensated accordingly as we are the reason for the whole show to happen. But I got into this job first and foremost because I liked the challenge, the competition the test as a martial artist, and the influence it can have on people. That's still what I like the most about it and why I continue to do it. When I lose this drive, I will certainly stop fighting.”