One of the greatest rivalries mixed martial arts (MMA), fans have been privileged to witness Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history each time Edgar and Maynard have butted heads. All of the momentum between the two culminated when they fought, most recently, at UFC 136 on Oct. 8, 2011, in Houston, Texas. The fight ended in the fourth round when, after fighting neck-and-neck to that point, Edgar finally was able "Answer" the "Bully" with a knockout blow that reverberated around the building, if not around the world.
Since that fateful night, things have changed quite a bit for both men. Edgar has since lost his title via unanimous decision loss to Ben Henderson at UFC 144 on Feb. 25, 2012, in Saitama, Japan. Maynard has not yet stepped back into the cage, but he has experienced some additional turmoil of his own, fluctuating between training camps. Most recently, he was a member of the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), but within the last six months, he's spent a fair amount of time at the famous Brazilian Nova União team training facilities to diversify his skills.
On June 22, 2012, Maynard is set to face Clay Guida at UFC on FX 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Even though that is the fight in his immediate line of fire, Maynard told HeavyMMA that he still has not gotten over the notion that he and Edgar are still due for one last final showdown:
"The title has always been the goal. I would love to have the belt and somewhere along the line, get another fight with Edgar. We are 1-1-1 and we need to settle it once and for all. It has to happen eventually, and after that fight we can both be done. We can walk away knowing it's over and that we gave MMA fans some great fights to look back on."
The fight between Maynard and Guida came about in a somewhat less-than-organic manner, as it was the product of yet another fan-led Twitter campaign to get the two into the Octagon. Maynard talked about the way the fight was put together, as well as how he sees it shaping up:
"The fight between Clay and I actually came out as a rumor a long time ago. Someone put it out there that we were going to fight in Montreal, and even though it wasn't true, it drew solid attention. The UFC saw this, and Joe Silva thought it was a great fight - so they made it happen. Since it has been out there, I've pretty much been gearing up for him for a while now. Guida has good takedowns, but I feel that is my area and what he lacks as a true athlete he makes up for in heart and toughness. Clay is well known for his cardio, but he also likes to mix it up and throw hands. He has a good chin, great heart and it's a fun fight."
The winner of the fight is almost guaranteed the next title shot, but anything can happen. Especially in the lightweight division, which MMAmania.com detailed earlier in the day as being the most stacked division in the UFC. Here's what Maynard had to say about the men who fight at 155-pounds in the UFC:
"The lightweight division is like a drama. It is like a good soap opera that draws you in because it's not built up off bulls**t hype. There is no fake build-up where guys are talking a bunch of s**t in order to get fan's attention. It's all in the actual fights people are seeing, and it is the most competitive weight class in the UFC, hands down. The skill and heart displayed in our division is without comparison. We go out there, put it all on the line and get after it from bell to bell."
For Maynard, the loss to Edgar may not have been a totally bad thing. It made him go back to the drawing board and really re-evaluate where he was as a fighter. He's worked hard to add some new aspects to his fighting arsenal, and has branched out, as far as the resources from which he draws:
"Last year, I hit a plateau - I really did. Now it's time to learn, and there is a lot of work to do. It's not like I changed camps and it's suddenly I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was. I have a lot to learn, but I'm excited and inspired again to do it. As far as jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, those things are just scratching the surface. There are so many other aspects and elements to refine or develop, like nutrition, sleep and recovery, which directly affect your performance. At the end of the day, those areas are relatively untouched and there is still so much to learn. I'm at a point in my career where I'm assessing everything I've learned. Obviously I've picked up a ton of useful information along the way, but I've also learned a great deal about what you shouldn't do. It's an awesome thing when you know who you are, how to train and what works best for you. I've been through it all and how you get to the top is realizing what you can and can't do."
In the ever-evolving sport of MMA, if you stagnate, you suffer. Maynard knows this and has been aggressively pursuing new ways to better himself as a fighter and as a person. Maynard has put the lightweight division on notice -- Look out for Gray Maynard 2.0:
"I'm living day to day and loving life right now," Maynard said. "I'm living my dream and I'm happy again. I'm training hard, going all over the Bay Area, and there is a lot of knowledge up here. It's been a great experience and I've learned a lot so far. I've picked up new techniques, different looks and my game is definitely evolving. All I want to do is continue to grow and develop, and I'm having a great time doing it. There is so much out there to learn. I'm hungry and excited to soak it all up, add new elements to my game and improve the areas I would consider my strengths. I want to keep evolving, and that is what it's going to take for me to become the fighter I want to be. I want to be a champion, and I'm going to do whatever it takes for that to happen."
First thing's first: Beat Guida. Next task? Take over the world.
Can Maynard overcome the seemingly infinite ball of energy that is Clay Guida and earn himself another title shot? Will "The Bully" one day wear UFC gold? What say you, Maniacs?