When Demian Maia defeated Jorge Masvidal at UFC 211 in Dallas, the Brazilian standout cemented his position as the No. 1 contender in the welterweight division and earned the opportunity to face Tyron Woodley for the title later in the year.
Five weeks ago, Maia got the call telling him his championship opportunity would take place at UFC 214 in Anaheim. And while he was initially worried about the condensed time he had to prepare for the biggest fight of his career, the surging submission ace is happy with how everything came together heading into Saturday’s co-main event showdown with “The Chosen One.”
“We were talking with our team and we said this could be the only chance that we have, let’s take this chance,” Maia said Wednesday when asked about his abbreviated training camp. “Thank God, I’m very good; the camp went well.
“We knew we couldn’t make any mistakes this camp,” added the Sao Paulo native, who previously challenged Anderson Silva for the middleweight title, making him the 12th fighter in UFC history to compete in a championship bout in two divisions. “When you have a 10-week camp, you can make some mistakes and correct along the way, but this camp, we couldn’t.
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Because he’s been quick to lobby for the opportunity to face bigger names than the Brazilian contender, many people have been under the impression that Woodley wasn’t interested in defending his title against Maia, but that isn’t the case.
“I was always open to this fight,” Woodley said during the UFC 214 press conference. “It’s not like he won seven fights in a row and he came by surprise like I didn’t know he was coming up. I just wanted to fight. I didn’t want to take a break. I didn’t want to wait ‘til the end of the year.
“If you’re the challenger, you step up and we fight and that’s why we’re fighting Saturday.”
Over his last four fights, Woodley has alternated between being the main event (UFC 201, UFC 209) and the penultimate fight of the evening, with Saturday’s stacked event at the Honda Center representing the second time he’s defended his title in the co-main event of a blockbuster show.
While not getting top billing may grate on some fighters, the welterweight champion doesn’t sweat it.
In fact, he welcomes the opportunity to handle his work quickly so he can enjoy the light heavyweight championship fight that closes out Saturday’s fight card.
“Everybody has their time and season and I’ve been shown to put on the best damn shows when I’m on the big cards,” Woodley said. “If you look at the history of me fighting, whenever it’s a huge fight card and people are going out there and the attention is on the main event, I always find a way to steal the show.
“I plan on going out there and having a great performance – getting rid of Demian Maia in record-breaking time and that way I can watch the main event.”