Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (22-9) is one of the most exciting lightweights in the UFC today. His fights against Tyson Griffin at UFC 72 and Roger Huerta at The Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale were two of the most intense fights of 2007.
And while he's just 2-3 in the UFC, Guida's record is deceiving. Many think his split decision loss to Griffin should have gone the other way, and he was likely up two rounds to none on Huerta before eventually getting caught in a rear naked choke early in the third round after a well timed head kick by "el Matador."
Guida looks to get back on track with his next challenge against Samy Schiavo at UFC Fight Night 13 on April 2. Schiavo (10-4) is well-rounded and trains with the French Top Team. He will be making his UFC debut.
Guida took time to talk with us about his upcoming fight with Schiavo, the skills that a true title contender needs to have and the reason Huerta might not be ready yet for a title shot, and ... of course ... his hair.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I actually re-watched your fights with Tyson Griffin and Roger Huerta just last night. When you fought Huerta, you looked to have won the first two rounds before getting caught in the third. Did you gas yourself at the end of round two, trying to finish Roger?
Clay Guida: I wouldn't say I gassed myself. I definitely tried to finish the fight. I've been struggling with that the last couple of fights with Din Thomas and Tyson Griffin. I didn't want to see it going into the judges' hands, especially being that Roger is undefeated in the UFC. I didn't want to see it go to the judges' scorecards because you never know, I might have been up two rounds in one judge's eyes, but the other two, who knows.
I just wanted to slug it out, try to get the TKO or whatever. I think if you look at my body or my emotions, it probably looked like I was tired, but I left it all out there to try and finish that fight. So I wouldn't say I was gassed, more just desperation to finish the fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well it was an outstanding fight. I think that one actually is my favorite fight of 2007.
Clay Guida: I appreciate it, man. It was one of my favorites.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Yeah, unfortunately it ended the wrong way for you. It must be extremely frustrating to be so close to victory, as you were with Roger, only to have it snatched away in seconds. How do you bounce back from that?
Clay Guida: Just always keeping a positive attitude, man, being thankful for where I'm at in my life and where I'm at in the UFC and in mixed martial arts, and in my career at such a young age.
You know, you can't let these things get to you as a fighter. If you think about something too much, you tend to dwell on it, and it starts to eat at you too much. So I always think about it from a positive standpoint and say, hey, it could be worse. I could be 0-5 in the UFC — and obviously 0-2 or 0-3 in the UFC, you're not going to be in the UFC, you know.
But at some point you look at the positive and say, hey, I'm potentially 4-1 or 5-0 in the UFC, depending on some people's outlooks, and maybe what Dana White and Joe Silva, who really make the difference, feel...You know, if you take a look at some of my fights that are close enough that could have gone either way.
So I try not to let this stuff eat at me, I use it as motivation, and I just train that much harder in the gym every day.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): In your fight with Griffin, I thought that you had won the fight, but obviously, the judges disagreed. You have a history of very close, highly competitive fights, during which the judges need to be able to see everything that is and isn't happening inside the cage. Do you think that your hair has ever been a detriment in a match, because, theoretically, it could shield the judges from seeing something that might NOT be happening to you?
Clay Guida: Ah, without a doubt. Every time I get jabbed, my hair goes flying and it looks like I'm getting hurt and stuff like that, but you can see I'm not. Don't get me wrong, punches don't feel great, I don't care who you are. People might say they don't hurt, but...but it's not like (the jabs) are hurting me, you know, you don't see my knees buckle or anything.
I don't get rocked very easily. My brother and I take pride in having a tough chin and just being tough dudes, I guess you could say. But it definitely does play against me, I think, having long hair. Hopefully, I can get some of the judges that have seen my fights to look at the bigger picture than just a few jabs that get through.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): In your fight with Roger, your wrestling skills seemed too much for him. You were taking him down with ease, with single legs and double legs. How do you feel his wrestling skills measure up to other contenders in the Lightweight Division?
Clay Guida: He makes up for...I wouldn't say lack of talent, because he's getting better every day, just as the rest of the lightweight division is. But he makes up for it to be, what I would say is a title contender, with a lot of heart. As you can see, he was down two rounds to none, and he came back and caught me with a knee that sent me into slow motion, kind of. A lot of that is his heart, not giving up, never say die attitude, you know.
But if I were to say ... I really don't think, and I think the UFC saw that he's not really ready for a title shot yet. You know, you gotta be able to at least defend the shots, or sprawl somewhat, and there was no sign of his Division III wrestling background in that fight at all.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Where did you go to school?
Clay Guida: I went to Harper Junior College just outside of Chicago. We won a national title. I was never like an All-American or anything, I started at 149, I wrestled with some of the best dudes in the country.
But I peaked in college. Everyone peaks at different times, some peak in high school. I started picking it up a lot better in college and carried it over into MMA, I think, very well. As opposed to some three-time Division III or Division II All-American who can't even get a takedown in a fight because they constantly wear themselves dry, shooting and shooting and getting stopped.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well like you said, you're now 2 – 3 in the UFC and could just as easily be 4-1 or even 5-0. You're set to face Samy Schiavo at UFC Fight Night 13. How badly do you need this win?
Clay Guida: Oh, more than any fight. I put this above my last couple of fights, even more so than the Marcus Aurelio fight, you know. I gotta have this win. Granted, the UFC does like to see exciting fighters, but if you don't have a winning record or a .500 record, you're probably going to be sitting on a shelf somewhere in the UFC for six to eight months, or they're just going to do away with you, and you can go fight on the other cards that are aired once every four or five or six months.
The UFC is my home right now, and I aim to keep it that way. I'm going to try to put Samy to rest and work very quickly, hopefully in the first or second round, and move onto bigger and better things.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Schiavo seems to be fairly well-rounded, with wins via KO, TKO and submission. He's also on a six-fight win streak. How have you been preparing for him?
Clay Guida: I'm working a lot of standup, a lot of cover, because he's very explosive. He's no one to look past, because it's those dangerous strikers—those are the guys who will catch you when you're looking for that takedown right away, or too quickly, or if you rush in.
I've been working on my takedowns, obviously, because we're looking to get it to the ground. I don't want to stand with him too long, but every round starts on the feet. I'm looking to trade for a little bit, but I'm sticking to my game plan.
Who knows, he might try to surprise me with a takedown, try to catch me off guard. But we work a lot of bad positions on the ground. I saw a bunch of opportunities against Huerta where I should have finished the fight, at least a handful of times where I could have finished the fight and didn't. We're not going to make that same mistake against Samy Schiavo because it might come back to bite us.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Do you find it difficult to prepare for this fight, given that it's a dark match, it's not on the televised portion of the card, and your last fight with Huerta was the main event?
Clay Guida: I actually find this one easier to prepare for. Roger I think was an easy fight to prepare for, being that his style is so unorthodox, he throws looping punches, things like that, everything is very wild, and you pretty much know what to expect. If I could throw punches right down the middle, which is what we did, and we tee off on them. Everything that I threw landed. I think 90 percent of the punches that I threw landed, at least my hands felt like that the next day or so, you know, being that they were sore and whatnot.
This fight, I think, is even easier to prepare for because I gotta get back in the winning column. The undercard fights are more important than any of them, I believe. If you lose on the undercard, where do you go next? You're probably not going to be fighting in the UFC. So yeah, this one's very easy to prepare for.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How many fights do you have remaining on your contract?
Clay Guida: I believe three.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you spoken with Joe Silva or any UFC brass about your future in the UFC?
Clay Guida: They want me to be part of the UFC for a long time. My manager keeps in good contact with them, I speak with Joe on a monthly basis. He's a busy guy. He's obviously talking with all the other managers and sponsors and stuff for the UFC. But they want me to be around for a long time, they know I put on exciting fights, but they also aren't going to treat me any different than the other fighters. I gotta be winning fights to be sticking around.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you ever fought lower than 155?
Clay Guida: No, you know what, when I first started fighting, every once in a while in an amateur fight, I'd do a couple of catch-weights, like at 160, 165. I didn't think that I would be fighting professionally for a living or whatever. And yeah, I haven't gone below 155, but you know, I'd love to get that belt at 155 in the next year or so, and maybe move on from there.
I wrestled 149 in college, and I didn't know my body as well then as I do now, but 145 might be something in the future, but a ways down the road, though. I want to concentrate on that lightweight title in the UFC first.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well it all starts at Fight Night 13. Speaking of which, who do you like in the Kenny Florian/Joe Lauzon fight?
Clay Guida: I like Joe Lauzon. I think he's very well rounded, he's up and coming. Kenny's the same too—he's good everywhere. I think his takedown defense lacks where he needs to be in order to be in the title shot. But I think Joe is dangerous and I think he's going to bring everything to the table, and I don't know if Kenny Florian is going to have an answer for it. So I'd like to see Joe Lauzon pick up the victory in that fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Picking the upset, huh?
Clay Guida: You betcha, buddy. I like the underdogs, man.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): If you could fight any fighter in the world, who would you fight?
Clay Guida: Any fighter in the world?
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well hell, anybody, you can pick Gandhi if you want.
Clay Guida: You know I'd have to say the guy who has my belt right now, and that's B.J. Penn. I look up to him, he's a master in the sport. He's pretty much proven to me that he's, I think, the greatest fighter out there around my weight class, and I'd like to, after a few more wins, get a shot at him.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Do you want to thank any sponsors, and do you have any parting words for your fans?
Clay Guida: Definitely, I'd like to thank all my fans and my friends and family for all their support. They're coming out to all the shows and leaving it out there just as I do in the cage. I leave everything in there, and I want no regrets. I'd like to thank MMAStop.com, John Fasco and a couple of my buddies and Premier Fighter as well, couple of my main sponsors and also the carpenter's union — Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. They've been behind me since day one. And I'd like to thank MMAmania, you guys, for helping me out and getting me some airtime.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Are you a legitimate carpenter?
Clay Guida: Yep, that's what I did before I was fighting. I first started with a non-union company, and then started working in the unions. Even before that I was a fisherman, dude, I lived out in Alaska and worked on a big fishing boat. But that was pretty crazy.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Right on, Clay. Well I'm a big fan of yours, and I look forward to seeing more of you in the UFC — and well hell, anywhere for that matter — but it's always nice talking to you, man, I appreciate it.
Clay Guida: Adam, thank you, and I appreciate all the support. Tell all the fellas I said hey, what's up.