Longtime UFC vet Demian Maia has gone 7-2 since dropping down to welterweight, which includes a current four-fight winning streak into a May matchup against Matt Brown at UFC 198.
The one-time UFC Middleweight Title challenger believes he belongs in title contention, and feels he’s absolutely got the ability to capture that belt when he gets his opportunity.
“If you ask me ‘are you the best one in the welterweight division?’ I don’t think so. ‘Are you the toughest one?’ I don’t think so. Or the best striker? I don’t think so. But ‘can you win the title?’ Yes, I think so, because I’m different than the other guys that used to fight,” Maia said in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I’m different than they normally expect. I’m feeling well, I’m feeling healthy, and I’m learning more tricks to be even more different that is gonna be harder for the guys to fight against me.”
Maia’s current winning streak came after a two-fight losing skid against Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald, and Maia says the latter loss changed his mindset entirely.
“Before it was too much pressure, I was just thinking ‘I wanna win the title, I wanna win the title. If I don’t win the title I’m not gonna be happy when I finish my career,'” Maia said. “But after I lost to Rory, I just relaxed. I love what I do, that’s great. I make money doing what I love, let’s see what happens. Once I relaxed, things started to flow better.
“I was always very, very focused, just thinking about the title. Everything I did in my life was about the title, but that’s too much pressure over me. When I relaxed more, even my performance became better. Now, it’s not like ‘I need to fight for the title, I will win’. I just relaxed, and I know I will fight for the title and I know I have a great chance to win. That’s why I want the chance, but I need to speak so I fight for the title.”
Penick’s Analysis: Maia’s performances on this current four fight winning streak have been excellent, and if he beats Matt Brown he should get something close to a title eliminator in his next fight. He’s got the type of elite grappling game that is hard to deal with for most, and though he’s a decent striker, when he concentrates on dominating opponents on the ground he typically excels. If he gets his opportunity he might very well take full advantage of it, and it would be fun to see him get that chance down the line.
[Photo (c) Gary A. Vasquez via USA Today Sports]
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