(This story appears in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)
LAS VEGAS – As UFC lightweight Gray Maynard prepares to complete the second trilogy series of his career, you might think more rematches are the last thing on his mind. But “The Bully” insists it’s quite the opposite.
Maynard is so passionate that the 155-pounder is willing to drop down a division to settle a score.
“I’ve got to take care of Nate Diaz, but the goal is obviously to get the T.J. Grant bout again, the Frankie Edgar bout, and then get the lightweight belt,” Maynard tells USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie. “Even if I have to drop down a division to face Edgar.”
Maynard (11-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) headlines Saturday’s UFC event, The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale, at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1), where he faces Diaz (16-9 MMA, 11-7 UFC) for the third time in six years.
The first bout was a 2007 semifinal matchup on the fifth season of “TUF.” It was an exhibition match and doesn’t show on their official record. Diaz won via second-round submission.
The rematch took place in January 2010, and Maynard earned a split-decision victory. He’s been anticipating a rubber match ever since.
“I think the UFC was planning on that for a long time, and they just had to make it where our careers are going at the same stage,” Maynard says. “You want to go out (up) 2-1. That’s the biggest thing, ending strong.”
That mentality currently fuels the career drive of a retooled Maynard, who looks to rebound from a knockout loss to Grant in May. At 34, Maynard, who previously was a bit of a training nomad, has finally settled in at California’s American Kickboxing Academy. A baby daughter has brought him some life perspective.
“Life is good,” he says. “I bought a house, and I’m doing some stuff to it. I’m training. I’ve got my baby.”
Despite the increased stability, the competitive fire still burns deep for Maynard, who despite earning a 2008 decision win against Edgar in 2011, twice fell just short of downing “The Answer” in two of the most memorable lightweight title bouts in UFC history.
Edgar has since dropped to the featherweight division, and while Maynard has long been considered one of the largest athletes in the lightweight class, he insists he’d take a fight at 145 pounds for a fourth fight with his nemesis.
“I sure as hell would try,” says Maynard, who’s 1-1-1 against Edgar. “I wouldn’t be there for good, but I would be there for that fight. It just goes back to that in my mind, it’s all even. I don’t want it to end like that.
“He got the last one, but I don’t want it to end like that. If he beats me two out of three times, then alright. But we’ll see. I’ve got to get through Nate and then keep going.”
For more on the TUF 18 Finale, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.