Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to a UFC great in Demian Maia.
We discussed everything MMA related, what he’s up to right now and what the future holds for him.
At what age did you start getting into MMA?
“My first MMA fight, I was 18 years old.”
Demian made his professional MMA debut in 2001 where he beat Raul Sosa. He signed with the UFC in 2007 where he’d make his debut at UFC 77.
Have you ever had to make many sacrifices to reach the pinnacle of the sport?
“To be an athlete, of course, you do sacrifices. I did many, I was struggling a lot, in the beginning of my career but that’s good because that gives you strength when you need because the MMA career, any athletes career will be a struggle, even if you get to the pinnacle and you’re successful you’re still struggling every day in training. There’s nothing the comfort zone if you start to get in the comfort zone then it’s time to stop because you don’t looking for the challenge anymore and you’re not going to evolve. That’s something I will bring to my life.”
You’ve fought at the top for such a long time, what does it take to become a successful fighter?
“To be a successful fighter is great, but it’s very tough also. When I was a kid, I remember, my dream was to travel, and to fight around, the world and there was not even a possibility, there was nothing, in such a profession like that. And now I do what I like, I travel around the world, I fight, I give seminars, but what I didn’t realise is that when I was thinking, you know when I was a kid, that when I reach this point would be really enjoyable but then I realised when you reach this point it’s more demanding, so it’s cool, but you’ve got to pay the price, and you pay the price every day to do what you like and to do what your love and to be at your best.”
“I think, not just sacrifice, but the most important is consistence. Some people will be able to sacrifice, for a while, but not for many years and I been in MMA, involved in MMA, for more than 30 years. You know, doing sacrifice every day, I think if you do that, then you’re going to be successful.”
Maia has fought at the top of the sport for such a long time. He holds wins over the likes of; Jorge Masvidal, Ben Askren, Carlos Condit, Chael Sonnen, Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson.
You made your UFC debut in 2007, how much has the UFC grown since then?
“Since I started UFC, you know the UFC became totally a different organisation, much bigger and I remember when I just got in, in 2007, you know it was much smaller, everybody knew each other, and the process was much more simple. I was inside all these years, and I saw how it grow so much, how much more professional it became. I remember, in 2008, when Dana called me, and I was UFC, and I had like three fights or four fights, he called me to ask me to change my song because he said I need a song more exciting, to do the walkout song. I think it’s something he would never do today.”
Can the UFC surpass Boxing?
“I think the UFC is already much more popular than boxing. Boxing, of course, has a long history and it’s big, and for the top fighters they pay more just because of the way the organisation is, like everybody has their own promoter, so it’s like as a UFC fighter, our only promoter is the UFC, but it’s just the way the business it is, that’s why the make that much money, those very, very top fighters. But I think in terms of popularity, people watch much more MMA than boxing.”
If you were in a fight camp right now, what would be your daily routine, training-wise?
“My fight camp is normally twice, two trainings a day. I train grappling, like Jiu-Jitsu, and wrestling, mixed to MMA, every day and striking training like four times a week. I always like mixing in the striking with the grappling and twice I do weights.”
Donald Cerrone holds the most wins in UFC history, with 23, and you’re on 22, do you think you’ll beat that record?
“That’s the thing I hope to do, like to be the guy with most wins in the UFC. That’s, one goal, that you know, makes me keep fighting.”
Demian is 42 now but believes he still has time to beat Donald’s record.
How has Covid-19 impacted your training?
“Covid-19 impact everybody here, because all the gyms are closed in Brazil and they will start reopening, I think, soon. What I’m doing is like I have some weights in my home and I have some punching bags, I’m doing that. I have a friend, a black belt, who is coming to my house, he is with his wife inside his house, he’s coming to my house, for the last couple weeks, to train with me, jiu-jitsu. I have some mats here, but that’s it, it’s not perfect, but I’m trying to keep in shape.”
Are you currently training? If so, how hard are you training?
“I’m not training really hard, but I’m training. I think it’s like middle intensity, it’s not really hard, but it’s not soft. So, I’m keeping in shape.”
When can we expect to see you in the cage again?
“Let’s see, when the UFC call me, I just worry about the training here. I have some friends, they have fights coming up, and they’re training, so if I need, I can do that. I just training and waiting.”
The names Donald Cerrone, Diego Sanchez and Anderson Silva have all been mentioned recently, would you consider fighting them?
“Yeah those three fights interest me, you know I hope the UFC thinks the same way.”
We last saw Demian fight, in March, he is looking for a fight and is waiting for a call from Dana White.
With the likes of Silva, Sanchez and Cowboy all mentioned, who would you like to see him fight next?
You’ve fought 38 times in your career, what has been your biggest achievement inside the octagon?
“I think, you know, in the octagon what gives me more pleasure was the victory against Ben Askren because everything that fight meant. He’s, you know, a great grappler and, I always, when I went to fight, everybody was running away from my grappling skills and he was the only one, in all my career, and all my life, who never tried to avoid the grappling and I was nervous because I knew he was really good, like All American, a national champion many times, so I knew he could win, you know, even in the grappling side but my thing was perfect for this fight.”
“My biggest achievement is to be the guy who is the spirit of the BJJ side of the octagon, and I don’t see any other fighter that goes there just to do BJJ. That’s why the fight with Ben Askren is special because he’s a guy, like getting wrestling, you know he’s a real fight, he really represents his art, and his art is very effective in MMA. So, for me, I knew would be a tough fight. So, to be the guy who people consider the guy, the biggest representative of BJJ MMA, that’s the biggest achievement.”
Who was your toughest opponent, and why?
“My toughest opponent, I think, was Anderson Silva because in the middle of the fight was hard to find the distance and do anything with him. You know, after the middle of the fight, the half of the third round, I started to do better and find my distance. The first two and a half rounds were pretty, pretty, tough.”
The pair fought at UFC 112, with Anderson Silva winning via a decision to retain his middleweight title. You’ve got to respect Maia, he went the distance, against the champion.
As well as Anderson Silva, Maia has fought some big names in the UFC, like; Tyron Woodley, Chris Weidman, Colby Covington, Kamaru Usman and Rory MacDonald.
You’ve recently talked about setting up a Youtube channel, what was the reasoning behind this?
“You know, the YouTube channel is something everything I do is to spread the BJJ around the world. I think that’s one of the tools that you can use today that’s very big. Plus, you enjoy it, man it’s nice to do. I’m doing one in Brazil, right now, we just started MMA Brazil, I’m doing some podcasts with some people outside the world of fight, which is great because then I bring people from outside to see what is BJJ and do this cross-over. It’s important for me, you know, bring people from inside our world. I’m lucky that I know a lot of celebrities and comedians, and actors, and actress.”
What are your plans after you retire?
“My plan, like I said, is to spread BJJ so I’m doing that already that I start to put more focus on, in Brazil and outside Brazil, US, and now some in Europe too. The seminars that I’ve been doing all these years, I want to do more, because many people ask me to do seminar but I don’t have time to go because of my schedule, but after I’m done fighting, I’ll be able to do more, some TV stuff in Brazil that we’re negotiating already and I did a documentary that is going to go in UFC documents. Next Monday I think will be the premier, the archaeology of a fighter, I went to Egypt and Greece and some caves in Brazil.”
How do you want fans to remember you?
“I want to be remembered as the guy who went there and, you know, give everything. I believe which is, you know, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because of the physical side of a martial artist, win the fight without damage your opponent and being safe without damage yourself, also. So it’s just not the efficient way to fight but also the most safe way to, you know, fight, and that’s why I believe so much in this martial art, and that’s, you know, how I’m gonna be remembered, the guy who went there.”
Currently ranked 7th in the welterweight division, who would you like to see Maia face next?
With a record of 28:10, Maia is a UFC icon and has achieved so much in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. He’s fought all over the world and takes pride in his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is arguably one of the best grapplers in the entire UFC roster. It showed when he beat Ben Askren, last October, in the “battle of the grapplers.” You’d think at 42 you’d call it quits, but Maia is not done yet, and I can assure you, you’ll be seeing him in the cage soon. You can check out his YouTube channels below:
Maia’s Website: http://www.demianmaia.com/