2013 was not a good year for Gray Maynard.
The 34-year-old American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) lightweight suffered two back-to-back knockout losses in a span of seven months.
"The Bully" met T.J. Grant at UFC 160 nearly a year ago and suffered a first-round drubbing in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Nova Scotian clipped him and followed up with punches to derail Maynard's future title hopes. The performance actually earned the Canadian a title fight, but those plans were shot down due to injuries.
The situation got worse for the former UFC lightweight title challenger, after Nate Diaz lit him up so badly in their Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale main event, that referee Yves Lavigne had to stop the contest in the first round, with Maynard still on his feet.
He was clearly out of it and doubts presented themselves regarding the Californian's fighting future, since Maynard lost three out of his past four contests by knockout (including Frankie Edgar's win in their trilogy fight at UFC 136 almost two years ago).
A healthy Maynard did the right thing by taking time off to adjust and verify that he was still well enough to continue competing. He's aiming for a return in July, according to MMA Fighting:
"After the Nate bout, I took some time off and I did some testing on my head, obviously, just to check that everything was alright. To be honest, the day after and even a couple of days after, I didn't have headaches, I wasn't hurting. Just a couple of scrapes. But then people who were close to me, Dana [White], the Fertittas, they wanted me to get checked out...It's just kind of weird, the last two bouts I just kind of got clipped. I can't explain it. My head wasn't all the way there, and that's a big part of it. I was concentrating on a game plan, and trying to do all this stuff, and it's just not how I compete. The punch that you aren't prepared for, the one that you don't see, is the one that clips you. They wanted me to get checked out, so I flew out to South Dakota where they perform impact brain tests."
Check yourself before you wreck yourself, said a famous rapper.
With all the unfortunate occurrences behind him, it remains to be seen if the gritty wrestler continues to choose boxing over his bread and butter, or if he will return to his roots.
Since the former NCAA Division 1 All-American is targeting a return to the Octagon this summer, he'll be making sure it resembles nothing like the past year:
"Last year was the worst year of my life. No wonder they don't have the 13th floor in buildings. 13 sucks. I hate it. It was a tough year. There was a lot going on, the losses, my dogs died... we had a new baby, but the baby was born in 2012. If she was born in 2013, I wouldn't be able to call it the worst year of my life. But she was born in 2012, so 2013 was the worst year of my life. Just a crazy year, so it was good to get it done with and start a new year."
Will Maynard be able to turn the tide in 2014?