In Saturday’s fight between Demian Maia and Lyman Good, the storyline is clear. If Good can land his bombs, it might be a short night for the veteran from Sao Paulo. But if Maia gets the New Yorker to the mat, well, the two-time world title challenger is one of the premier grapplers in the sport.
It’s a heck of a nice reputation to have, and Maia knows it. But he’s not resting on his laurels because, as we know, this is a mixed martial arts match.
“It certainly makes me happy in some ways,” he said of the respect given to him by peers and fans. “As in the end I make no secret about how proud I am to represent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I understand my role in giving something back to the martial art that gave me so much already. With that said, a fight is a fight. You can’t sleep on anything and just think anything is a given, as there are not any guarantees of anything in the UFC. So I have to keep working hard with my grappling as well as with anything, and I know my opponents are always gonna come prepared.”
So take that to mean Maia hasn’t reached his ceiling yet on the mat, which is pretty scary. But what of everything else? After three bouts against respected wrestlers (Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman), the 41-year-old is finally matched up with someone with an entirely different style. And considering that he defeated three strikers in a row (Matt Brown, Carlos Condit and Jorge Masvidal) before his current three-fight losing streak to the aforementioned wrestlers, the odds are in Maia’s favor this weekend in Fortaleza. But again, he can’t think the way we do when it comes to MMA math.
“It goes both ways,” he said. “I mean, it’s obviously good in theory to not have to fight an awesome wrestler again, but that is only good in theory. In reality, he (Good) is super tough, and has trained hard and surely will come prepared. So you do study your opponent, but also try to find little things where you can improve here and there to become more efficient and be ready for everything. It’s an ongoing evolution process, even if sometimes the steps may seem small, but we are always adjusting little things based on recent experiences.”
Those are the words of a veteran, someone who has seen and done it all over the last 17-plus years, a stretch that includes 28 trips to the Octagon. During that time, Maia has earned the respect of the fighting community, and while he’s never worn championship gold, he has fought for the belt in two weight classes and scored more than his share of big wins. In other words, there’s nothing left to prove for Demian Maia. But he’s still here. And why not?
“I just love to train and to compete,” he said. “This is something I do because I like it, and I still feel like I’m evolving and learning. It’s amazing because every camp I feel I’m becoming a better fighter, and we are evolving our process, even though time never stops. Of course over time you get stressed over some of the difficulties our sport brings, and there are many; it’s not an easy life by any means. But I still enjoy going to the gym every morning and testing myself against all the kids in the gym, and keep improving every day, little by little.”
But is it true that life begins at 40?
“It certainly does not,” Maia laughs, “but I can honestly tell you that I’m still feeling good and training exactly in the same way or even better than I was when I was younger. Our training camps have been becoming smarter and more efficient as I get older, I improved my diet a lot in the last few years, and I measure myself by my performance in training against the young guys at the gym. The day I start to perform bad in training, or feel like going to train is a burden, Then I’ll move on. Right now I feel fine and I’m happy to be fighting.”
It’s been over eight months since his last bout with Usman, so yeah, a break was nice for a little bit, but as far as Maia is concerned, he’ll take fighting over vacation anyday.
“In a sense, it’s good to get away from all the pressure of having a fight scheduled, and being able to enjoy my family and take care of some other projects,” he said. “On the other hand, I like to be active and in rhythm, and I know I won’t be doing this forever. It wasn’t necessarily my will to be sidelined for a bit, but sometimes things align this way. I never stopped training though, and I’m happy to be competing again.”