Clay Guida knows more than anyone else that in the world of mixed martial arts and in the eyes of fans, you're only as good as your last fights.
"The Carpenter" holds victories over the likes of top 10 lightweights Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos, was in several "Fight of the Year" battles against Ben Henderson, Diego Sanchez, Tyson Griffin and Roger Huerta, but after consecutive performances inside the Octagon that left fans with a bad taste in their mouths, he's now being forced to defend himself from critics.
The Jackson's MMA fighter dropped down to featherweight recently, scoring a very close split decision win over Hatsu Hioki at UFC on Fox 6 in a fight where he simply couldn't get much offense in other than taking the talented Japanese grappler down and keeping him there.
Guida is hoping that his next bout, a UFC on Fox 7 contest against former featherweight title challenger Chad Mendes in two months (April 20, 2013) will make fans forget about those last few performances and instead think of him as a suitor for that number one contender position.
The Illinois native spoke to MMAmania.com during an appearance on The Verbal Submission podcast last night about fighting friends, gaining confidence in his hands and potentially being in Dana White's doghouse in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You accepted a fight against Chad Mendes who's a fighter you're pretty close to. You have that wrestling bond. What made you decide it was okay, you were going to put the friendship aside and fight him?
Clay Guida: It was an easy decision when a possible shot at a world title, a championship is on the line. Nothing is gonna get in the way of my dream and that's what I'm here to do for the last 6-7 years in the UFC in my mixed martial arts career. Chad and I are grown men and we know what we'll be friends no matter what. We're out there to have fun for 15 minutes if it takes that long and we'll be friends afterwards. Whatever happens in that potential 15 minute time isn't going to faze us afterwards. He's a top level wrestler and I've been feeling pretty confident in my skill-set as one of the top lightweights and featherweights in the world. No one is gonna stand in my way.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So does that mean say you win this fight and you're potentially one fight away from a title shot and your teammate Cub Swanson is also in line for the shot. If they asked you to fight Swanson for number one contender, you'd be okay with that?
Clay Guida: Me and Cub know that if it's number one contender or a title fight, it's all good. He's one of my best buddies and we beat each other up in the gym every day. He probably beats me up more but if it comes down to it, we're here for a couple of reasons which is to have fun, do the best we can and hopefully raise that belt high over our heads.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This fight against Chad Mendes, this will be one of the first times in your career that you're fighting someone that you're taller than and have a reach advantage. Was having a physical advantage like this one of the main reasons you decided to make the cut to 145 pounds?
Clay Guida: Chad's explosive. He makes up for being short by being dangerous and very explosive. He's able to capitalize on guys that are slower than him, guys that are taller and rangier. I'm excited about the match-up. I'm excited about having a little height advantage and little reach advantage for once. I know we're gonna match up in speed, maybe I'll be a bit quicker, who knows? It's one of those fights that are very close in the wrestling department. He's obviously a bit more technical, a higher level of wrestling but I have a different level of mixed martial arts wrestling that I bring to the table.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It always seems like when you get matched up with these really aggressive wrestlers that aren't afraid to move forward and trade blow-for-blow, guys like Tyson Griffin, Diego Sanchez and Ben Henderson, those fights end up being some of the best and craziest fights of your career. Do you look at this fight and think it has the potential to live up to those fights that won "Fight of the Year" awards and stuff like that?
Clay Guida: Without a doubt. Chad brings a tenacity to the cage that not many fighters do in the featherweight division. Guys like Ben Henderson, Tyson Griffin and Diego Sanchez are very similar. They're tough, hard-nosed dudes and you really gotta take them out. Decisions are always gonna be close, it's gonna be an exciting fight. It's gonna be back and forth and you really gotta finish these guys which is hard to do the higher you get in the ranks. The higher you go, the tougher the competition and who knows? It could be one of those "Fight of the Year" candidates.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you think you'll be able to beat Chad Mendes if your wrestling is nullified. Will it come down to something as simple as heart and conditioning, two things you've become widely known for?**
Clay Guida: A little bit of everything, man. Experience comes into play. Grappling skills, he's got some great grapplers around him and I've rolled with Urijah Faber quite a bit and Joseph Benavidez. They're great friends of mine and I know he's in good hands out there working with top wrestlers and so am I. I'm out here in the midwest wrestling, wrestling, wrestling before I head out to Albuquerque and we've got a couple things lined up for April 20th.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After your win at UFC on Fox 6, I spoke with your coach Mike Winkeljohn and we discussed your featherweight debut against Hatsu Hioki. He mentioned that your punches were coming up a bit short and while it may have had something to do with Hioki's range, he said that you needed to have more confidence in your stand-up. Do you think that that might be the case?
Clay Guida: Oh yeah. Coach Wink knows my style very well. We've been working for a few years now. He knows my tendencies, my strengths and my weaknesses very well. That's why he's one of the best in business. It has a little bit to do with both. Sometimes I let up on guys in practice and sometimes I let up on them a bit in the cage. I would say a lack of confidence but not to take away that Hioki uses his range very well. I was throwing some overhands, I was trying to go to the body and he was able to keep me away with that jab and cross to my head, my forehead and he used his range to his advantage. That's why he's been so successful in his career.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think about Anthony Pettis dropping down and getting an immediate title shot, especially considering you beat him in his UFC debut?*
Clay Guida: Yeah, it's a tough one. He's on a roll. He's beaten a couple tough guys in the lightweight division but I think unless you've had a belt before in the UFC or at that weight, you might have to prove yourself. It was a bit of a different situation with Frankie Edgar. He's fought and beat some of the best guys, had some controversial fights with Ben Henderson and Gray Maynard, came down with a very close fight. It was a good fight against Jose Aldo. I don't think it was as close as some people made it sound. With Anthony, he's on a roll right now but it would be nice to see him have to win one. I understand him not wanting to wait around for Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez and depending if they get injured, having to wait another 6-8 maybe 10 months. Who knows how long before he gets a shot at the lightweight belt? It's all good. Timing is everything in this sport and you've really got to earn your way into the title picture.
Mike Bohn: I was looking up your record and you've had six UFC fights end by split decision, which is the most ever by a UFC fighter. I just wanted to know what if any adjustments you can make to your game to avoid having such close fights so often?
Clay Guida: I didn't know it was that many. (laughs) That's unfortunate, but it goes to show you that we're competitive in every fight. Even when we're the underdog, we step up to the competition. Those of you who have seen most of my fights, some of them shouldn't have been split decisions. I can name a couple off hand right now that I think I won without the need for a split decision like Marcus Aurelio or maybe a couple other ones like Gray Maynard which was a controversial one. My coach tells me I'm a split decision away from being a world champion. I can take in the positive or negative light and it just shows I've got to work more on certain skills and make that split decision to turn into a submission or TKO or knockout of some sort. It's just a matter of time before I start putting guys away and really start making a statement in the featherweight division. That's an interesting fact, my friend.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I don't know if you heard about this but Dana White went on a radio show in Los Angeles before UFC 157 and he said that he thinks you changed your style and "whatever it was that made you really popular and exciting, you're doing the exact opposite of that now." I just want to know if you had a response to that.
Clay Guida: I didn't really know about that. 157 was last week? Dana and I have an understanding. He knows I'm one fight away from potentially having a "Fight of the Night" or a "Fight of the Year" candidate. These last couple of fights, Hioki, I want to see his last six fights and see how exciting those were. All of his fights in the UFC have been snoozers. Mine against him was a snoozer. I'm not gonna take anything away from that. It was a boring fight, sorry. The Gray Maynard one? We spoke about that and obviously it wasn't the most exciting but I always thought that the guy who gets hit the least and takes the least amount of damage usually wins in a mixed martial arts or combat sport. I'm over talking about that fight.
Before that, I fought Ben Henderson and that was a "Fight of the Year" contender. Before that I beat one of the former champs (Pettis) and before that I beat a former Pride champ (Gomi). The list goes on and on. I submitted guys and people know my style is always gonna be exciting. I challenge a guy that actually wants to go in there nose-to-nose conditioning-wise and put it on the line and we'll see who comes out on top. People know I'm out there to fight every fight like it might be my last.
Yes, strategy is part of every fight, keeping your brain intact so that one day I can talk to my family like a normal human being instead of stuttering like so many of these boxing buffoons and some of these professional athletes. There is life after fighting and I want to be that guy that people can look to as a good coach and somebody they can look up to as a role model. There's a lot of things after fighting. Any fight I'm in is a potentially exciting fight and everybody knows that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In that Hioki fight, it seemed like you were trying to pass guard, tried to land some strikes on the ground, but he just had really good defense. He was shutting down the half guard pass and he had a death grip on your wrists for most of the time on the canvas. Do you think that played into it a lot too?
Clay Guida: Absolutely. The guy is a phenom. He's a wizard on the ground and he's tricky. I don't think anyone has taken him down, Ricardo Lamas took him down and got swept within 20 seconds. Our gameplan was to stay on top and try to work damage and the guy was like a boa constrictor around my arm. He was going for submissions and I defended 'em. What am I supposed to do? I tried to posture up for some ground and pound and the guy wrapped up my arms. We wrestled him, got a big slam, some takedowns here and there and we got the win. I'm on to bigger and better things and Chad Mendes is in my sights now and that's what we're looking forwards to with victory.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'm sure you heard about the recent UFC cuts and Dana White said that they had about 100 too many fighters on the roster. We've already seen some crazy cuts like Jon Fitch which caught a ton of people by surprise. Does that get in a fighter's head that they have to put it all on the line and raise their level even more? How does that pressure affect fighter's mentalities heading into fights?
Clay Guida: I think it affects weak-minded fighters and weak-minded athletes. If you fear for your job, you'd better start doing it the right way. That's why we go out there and fight every fight like it could be our last because you never know. Every day could be our last. I'm out there to put on a show, to have fun and get my hand raised.
Clay would like to thank everyone at Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts, Mike Winkeljohn, Izzy Martinez, Safe Auto, Muscle Pharm, everyone at Gracie Barra in Albuquerque, everyone back home at the Midwest Training Center. Montini Catholic wrestling who just won their sixth state title in a row. Check out his gym Clay Guida's MMA Stop Fitness in Crest Hill, Illinois You can follow him on twitter @ClayGuida and you can meet Clay at the Arnold's Expo in Columbus, Ohio this weekend.
*Question submitted by ricky~dooby
*Question submitted by wooly shambler