To the casual UFC fan, the name Demian Maia might not ring a bell. But the Brazilian middleweight sensation is doing his best to change that ... and change it fast.
He’s won more worldwide jiu-jitsu tournaments than most people can pronounce, including the 2007 Abu Dhabi World Submission Grappling Championships, the Mundials World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (twice), the 2006 Pan American Championship, the … you know what, I lost count.
Suffice it to say, you don’t want to roll with this guy unless you want something hyper-extended.
Plus, the undefeated mixed martial artist is 9-0 overall, 3-0 in the UFC and is the only man to earn "Submission of the Night" honors three consecutive times. He also served as an instructor on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 8 for Team Mir.
The guy’s keeping busy.
He now sets his sights on his next opponent, Nate "The Rock" Quarry (10-2). The two square off tomorrow, November 15, at UFC 91: "Couture vs. Lesnar" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The fight will be included on the main card and aired on pay-per-view, starting at 10 p.m. ET.
Quarry is a tough competitor who has battled back from spinal surgery that would have ended most athletes’ careers. He’s also won six of his last seven fights, with his lone loss coming from a mean straight left at the hands of then-middleweight champion Rich Franklin (we’ve all seen the highlight).
We recently caught up with Maia to see what he has in store for Quarry, ask him about all those "Submission of the Night" honors and to pick his brain about a potential matchup with current Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
Here we go.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): In your fight with Ed Herman, two times you pulled off a technique that was just beautiful, and I think you did it again against Jason MacDonald. I’m referring to when Herman had you on your back and was attempting to pass your guard. Herman tried to push your knee to the mat, but gave up wrist control in the process. When he posted up, he lowered his right shoulder, and you brought up your leg and sunk in the triangle. It seemed like a beautiful bait and switch. Can you talk about that a bit, whether or not your strategy was to intentionally bait him in like that, or if it just fell right into place for you?
Demian Maia: Well it was intentional, but at the same time, when I fight jiu-jitsu I like to flow. Just flow. And I see what is happening, what the guy is doing. I don’t go in and say, "I will do that, or I will do this or that." I wait and see what the guy will give to me.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Since entering the UFC, you’ve gone on a three-fight tear, with submission victories over Ryan Jensen, Ed Herman and most recently Jason MacDonald at UFC 87. With each fight, you’ve earned "Submission of the Night" honors, making you, I believe, the only man in UFC history to earn that honor three consecutive times. Were you aware of that, and if so, how does it feel to hold that honor?
Demian Maia: It’s a big honor for me to be at the biggest event in the world and get three times in a row the "Submission of the Night." I’m really, really happy about that. I’m working my submissions a lot and that’s just my work when I go there. I try to do what I do best, and what I do best is submit people. So that’s what I try to keep doing, and let’s hope that I win again.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Despite the accolades, you still aren’t largely well-known amongst the average UFC fan. What do you think needs to happen to give you more exposure? Clearly, your skill set is not the issue.
Demian Maia: I think it’s normal. It takes time. My first and second fights were undercard fights, so they didn’t get much exposure. But they did show my first fight on TV after the main card. And I think my last fight against Jason MacDonald was my first fight on the main card. Secondly, it’s a question of time. If you keep doing well, winning or losing, if you fight well, and you are featured on the pay-per-view, people get to know you, and you grow in popularity.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): It’s been talked about that you, along with Rousimar Palhares, were brought into the UFC because your world-class jiu-jitsu would create problems for the Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, who hasn’t really shown a weakness anywhere except for possibly on the ground. You’re now 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the UFC. How many more wins do you think you’ll need before you’ll get a title shot?
Demian Maia: Actually I am 9-0, because my first fight —
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Oh, I’m sorry.
Demian Maia: No, no, I don’t know why they don’t put my first fight on Sherdog. It was in 2001, my first fight. Anyways, it depends on the UFC. To me it doesn’t really matter. With each fight for me, I learn more. So I know one day the title shot will come if I keep learning and doing well. So it’s good because I will fight this Saturday, where I will have another opportunity to learn more. And then probably fight again. So I don’t know when I’ll get a title shot, but it’s really up to them. They know better than me. I will just wait, and I will be prepared when they call.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): With Anderson Silva intent on retiring sometime in 2009, are you all the more anxious to get a shot at the title before that happens?
Demian Maia: I think he has a lot more time. Five fights, right? So I think I don’t really need to rush. If I keep doing well I will fight him for sure.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, you next fight Nate Quarry this Saturday at UFC 91. While Quarry’s no stranger to the Octagon, his ground skills are definitely limited when compared to your own. He’ll clearly want to keep this fight standing for as long as possible. Do you plan to stand long with him, or would you prefer the action to be on the ground?
Demian Maia: Of course I prefer on the ground, but I really don’t care. It’s a fight, I don’t have like a fight plan to go and just put him on the ground. I really, really don’t care. I go there and will start to fight and when I feel it’s good to go to the ground, then I go. But now I’m much more confident in my standup game, so I’m not going to be thinking, "I need to put this guy down, I need to put this guy down." I just go, fight and see what’s going to happen. If it goes to the ground, even better.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): While he’s very well-respected and a strong striker, Quarry isn’t exactly the fastest striker in the game. What role do you see footwork playing in this fight?
Demian Maia: I think I am able to do that nowadays, because I am better. But if I can’t use my jiu-jitsu, of course I would prefer to, but if not, I am still able to fight where and when I need to.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Do you see Quarry as having any shot at postponing the inevitable takedown?
Demian Maia: No, of course he has. Everybody has. But I think a fight is a fight. I cannot say that I will put him down easy and I will submit him. No, no, no. he’s just as intent as me. He can do a good fight. It takes two. Like 50/50. That’s the fight game.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): In preparing for this fight, have you changed up anything in your training? Have you brought in any new coaches or training partners, or worked on striking more?
Demian Maia: Yeah, I think my last fight was much more professional, and this one I am not teaching anymore like I was before. I am not teaching jiu-jitsu too much, just a little bit. I am just training, sleep, eat, training, sleep, eat. Just these things all the time. I’m doing everything that I could do to stay in the best shape that I can.
My camp is still the same. I work with Andre Lopes on boxing, Rafael Alejarra on conditioning in the ring. He’s helped me out a lot with all the aspects of the fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Demian, I really appreciate the time you took to talk with us, and I wanted to give you an opportunity to plug any sponsors or if you have any parting words for your fans.
Demian Maia: I’m really happy now that the people in the United States and people in North America are starting to know me and appreciate my skills in jiu-jitsu, and they appreciate the ground fight. It’s very nice. I’m very happy that I can bring that inside the Octagon. So I love that. I love it when the people come and appreciate what I do there. Not just violence but also submissions. Not just a punch and knee to the face, but different things also. I like to win in a clean fight — no blood, nothing.
I like to say thanks to my managers and agents, like Paulo Vasconcellos and my management team at MMADHOUSE.com. They really help me out a lot.
And I want to say thanks to Eternal Unlimited, who sponsored me, and Warrior, who sponsored me for this fight also. And for everybody who supports me.