Camp changer: Gray Maynard amicably parts ways with Xtreme Couture, now training at AKA and other gyms

Randy Couture gives former number one UFC lightweight contender Gray Maynard an earful between rounds. Photo via LasVegasSun.com.

Former number one UFC lightweight contender Gray Maynard has parted ways with his long-time camp and gym in Las Vegas, Nevada, Xtreme Couture.

Maynard, who was among the original members who helped former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture open up the now world famous gym, has been a member of Xtreme Couture since his early days on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).

In fact, Xtreme Couture has been Maynard's home base throughout his UFC career, which includes two memorable lightweight title fights against UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 125 and UFC 136, both of which he came up on the short end of the stick.

As "The Bully" embarks on a brave new journey, he tells HeavyMMA.com that the move was not on bad terms and he still remains close to his family at Xtreme Couture:

"Leaving Xtreme Couture is something that has been going through my head for awhile. I know people want to assume the worst, but that isn't the case. During my camp for Kenny Florian, I started to think about everything that is out there in this sport. A month before my fight with Edgar in Houston, I made my decision. I informed the gym (Xtreme Couture) that I would not be coming back. I felt it was important because win or lose, I wasn't going to return for my training. I did things this way because I didn't want to win the title and have people thinking I won the belt and left for something else. I made sure to tell them long before my fight on October 8th, so there wasn't any confusion. The group of guys I started with at Xtreme Couture -- Martin, Jay, Pyle, John Alessio -- those guys are family to me. That won't change just because I'm not doing my training camps there. It isn't about anything other than it was time to move and me wanting to train anywhere I can. I was at Xtreme Couture for a long time and I never trained anywhere else. I was loyal and no one can question that. Xtreme Couture is a great gym with some of the best coaches. I heard Ray Sefo is the head coach over there now, and he does an awesome job. That will be great for the guys. Gil Martinez is a great coach, but my leaving Xtreme Couture isn't about the quality of coaching or who's there - it's about me wanting to train all over the place and learn everything I possibly can."

Maynard goes on to say that privacy in a crowded gym was one of the issues he had to deal with while at Xtreme Couture:

"Four weeks away from my fight against Edgar in Houston, I hurt my back, received an epidural and was out for a week and a half. I couldn't go into the gym because there are always so many people coming and going who I don't know. I didn't want anyone to put it out there I was injured. Because of this I had to go to a small gym to train. Without bodies I couldn't really spar heading into the fight, and the final month is the time to turn it up. My training ended up being all over the place and it just wasn't a good situation. I had to be very controlled with whatever training I could do. This is fighting and those things happen. I'm not making any excuses whatsoever. Fighters get hurt and for me it just happened at that time."

Maynard also touched on which camp he may end up with in the future. American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), which houses UFC stars such as Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, among others, appears to be on the short list:

 "Right now I'm up in Santa Cruz and things are great. There are a few gyms I have been training at. I've also spent some time at AKA. They have a great gym, an awesome team and I'm enjoying my time here. At this point my focus is on broadening my horizons and wherever I feel that can be accomplished is where I will go. There is a huge world out there and so many great camps where I can learn so many things. I just want to get out and train with whoever I can. There are so many other camps and so much I can learn, it became something I needed to do. If that means going down to Brazil and training with Jose Aldo, I'd be excited to go. There are a ton of gyms in Holland and to train with Andy Souwer would be something that interests me. There is so much to learn out there and I want to grow."

Maynard (10-1) was last seen in action at UFC 136 on Oct. 8, 2011, suffering the first loss of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career when he was knocked out by Edgar in the fourth round in the third fight of their trilogy.

As Maynard looks to climb the stacked UFC lightweight ladder once again, it will be interesting to see whose services he enlists to help him in his quest for UFC gold. Though he is not committed to bunking down with just one camp,  AKA in San Jose, Calif., seems to be the front runner to land one of the top lightweight's in the world.

Is the wrestling-minded gym the perfect fit for Maynard -- perhaps the missing piece to his championship puzzle? Or would he be better off in New Mexico or perhaps just north of the United States border?

Opinions, please.

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