Gray Maynard will finally fight someone different for the first time in nearly two years when he steps in the Octagon with Clay Guida at UFC on FX 4 on Friday night in Atlantic City, N.J.
That’s hardly what Maynard is focused on, however. What he really wants is to be where the only man he’s fought the past couple of years, Frankie Edgar, is at. And that would be on the cusp of fighting UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson for the title.
Edgar faces Henderson at UFC 150 on Aug. 11 in Denver, and Maynard would love to be in his place.
Save for a momentary lapse, it could be him.
“I’ve knocked the UFC world champion down five times and probably been as close to the title as you can get without actually holding it,” Maynard explained. “I want to go one punch, one second, better next time. It was very frustrating not being able to get the win despite beating Edgar up, and it took a long time getting over it. But I’m back and I know I’m able to beat anyone in the division.”
In reality, Maynard will have to beat at least Guida to get back into contention for the title, and likely he’ll have to do more than that.
There is an abundance of fighters already waiting in the wings to challenge the winner of the Henderson vs. Edgar rematch. Nate Diaz has been promised a title shot and appears to be willing to wait it out. Anthony Pettis is also near the front of the line, although he may have to take another fight before he gets his turn at the belt.
Behind them sit Maynard and Guida, so Maynard knows he not only has to defeat Guida, he needs to put a stamp on it.
“There’s a big traffic jam in the division now, and now it isn’t me causing it; I think it sucks!” Maynard exclaimed.
“Winning on Friday night against Guida isn’t good enough. I know I’ve got to knock him out, make a statement, to make my case for a title shot. I know it’s not likely I get another fight with Frankie so soon, but if Benson keeps the belt, I think I make sense as No. 1 contender. I’ve already beat Diaz, but he’s earned his spot at the top of the division, and I’d be happy to fight him for No. 1 spot any time.”
Maynard has gone through a lot of changes in his life since he last fought Edgar over seven months ago. He left Xtreme Couture in favor of American Kickboxing Academy in an attempt to shake up his training, and more importantly, he’s about to become a father. And that puts an entirely new spin on his motives for wanting the championship.
“My girl is pregnant and that changes your outlook in life. I don’t just want that belt for myself now, but to secure the future for my kid who is about to come into the world,” Maynard explained. “Being a world champion and having big fights secures my kid’s future.”
Still, Guida is relentless, the Energizer bunny of mixed martial arts, and this is a five-round fight.
Will the shifting camps and newfound motivation will be enough for Maynard to get past Guida and propel himself back into the title picture? We’ll find out Friday night.