The UFC lightweight division has been in a bottleneck in terms of the contenders race due to several rematches and one draw that forced a lot of top fighters to wait for their chance to compete for the gold.
Gray Maynard was right in the thick of it because he was involved in a draw with Frankie Edgar last January, which led to a rematch between the two lightweights last October.
Unfortunately, Maynard came out on the wrong end of his last fight with Edgar, forcing the former Michigan State wrestler to rethink a few things in his life.
He moved from Las Vegas to California, leaving behind his former team and coaches, and began training full time with American Kickboxing Academy. He also took some serious time off to recover an ailing body that hampered him leading into the rematch with Edgar in October of last year.
Now healthy in both mind and body, Maynard is coming off of a win over Clay Guida in June and he’s once again gunning for that top spot. Maynard was just an onlooker when the lightweight title was last defended on Saturday at UFC 150, and while it wasn’t advantageous to his own career for Frankie Edgar to recapture the belt, he still believed that Edgar should have gotten the nod.
“I thought Edgar pulled it out, but whenever, it’s a close one; the judges, it’s all up to them I guess,” Maynard told MMAWeekly Radio. “He pulled out a couple close ones against B.J. (Penn) and me and then he had this one; it was close, so it could go either way I guess.”
Maynard lost his last fight with Edgar in 2011 and he knew as long as the New Jersey native held onto the belt, he probably wouldn’t get another shot at the gold for quite some time, if ever. Now with the belt in Benson Henderson’s hands, the doors are once again open to a title run for Gray Maynard.
Maynard has never faced Henderson, but he does have history with the champ’s next opponent, Nate Diaz. During season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, Diaz submitted Maynard to advance to the finals of the reality show. Maynard got his revenge at a UFC Fight Night in 2010 when he beat Diaz by split decision.
“It opens up things for me. It opens up things for (Anthony) Pettis because he beat Benson. If Nate beats him, that opens it up for me more because there’s a trilogy. He beat me once and I beat him, so we could do the third fight. There’s a lot of options,” Maynard stated.
Maynard makes no bones about wanting the winner in the fight between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz, but he believes that a trilogy could be in his future after UFC on Fox 5 finishes on Dec. 8.
“Nate’s on a roll; I think he’ll pull it out,” Maynard said about the fight between Henderson and Diaz. “If he does, I know he was begging for me for a long time, but for me I was looking at the title and that’s a fight that would be a great fight for the title. I’d like to do the TV show against him if that’s the case.”
The TV show is The Ultimate Fighter, which kicks off season 16 in September with coaches Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin. If Diaz is successful in defeating Henderson, Maynard hopes to land the season 17 slot and settle the rubber match with the man who originally eliminated him from the show more than five years ago.
If The Ultimate Fighter happens for Maynard, it would likely mean him sitting out for the better part of eight to 10 months with filming and waiting to fight, but right now, he’s only interested in the biggest fights possible against the best opponents.
It doesn’t get much bigger or better than fighting for the UFC lightweight title.
“For me as of now, it’s about going up against the top guys. Like I don’t care about paydays, and stuff like that. Right now it’s about beating the top guys and getting the belt,” said Maynard.
“I did a lot of work all the way till now and I’m at the top. I need that belt, and I switched up a lot of stuff to do that. I changed gyms, did everything I could, so when the opportunity happens I’ll be prepared for it.”
If Maynard doesn’t land the shot against the winner of Henderson vs. Diaz, there is still one long-standing grudge he would love to settle. He believes there is still unfinished business with Frankie Edgar, and that would be another opportunity to coach on the reality show and then put their rivalry to bed.
“I would love that fight still. He’s a tough kid; there’s a TV show in that. That’s No. 4 and that doesn’t happen very often, and it’s been back and forth. He pulled out the last bout that we had, it happens, but that’s a good story as well,” Maynard said.
“That fight interests me; I want that to be done. The belt of course is my goal. It’s a good spot to be in. That’s all I care about: top guys, good fights.”
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