On Saturday night Gray Maynard stepped into the Octagon prepared to prove he was the best lightweight fighter in the world. When the final bell sounded he believed he had gotten the job done.
The first judge saw the fight for Maynard and even after hearing the second score go in Edgar's favor, Gray was confident the final score card would crown him the new UFC lightweight champion. When Bruce Buffer read the final score of 47-47 and the fight was declared a draw, his heart sank.
If the decision wasn't disappointing enough, word broke that an immediate rematch would not be happening and Anthony Pettis would be facing Edgar later in the year. It seemed to be a worst case scenario for Gray Maynard but things quickly turned around when UFC President Dana White called confirming the immediate rematch between Maynard and Edgar was the number one priority.
I sat down with Gray on the morning after his "Fight of the Night" performance against Frankie Edgar and in this Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview he talked about a third fight with Edgar and how close he thought he came to finishing Edgar in the first round.
"The first shot I rocked him with and he was wobbled, I thought it was over," Maynard began. "I thought 'Oh my God, I'm the lightweight champ' in the first round. Once he started to grab on to my leg and looked to survive I knew that I could either slow down, start to pick my shots or I could swing for the fences and finish him. I said 'Fuck it' and went for the finish. I thought it was pretty close to being stopped. Frankie did a good job at staying around. I felt him go down and I hit him with some big punches. He grabbed onto the fence to pull himself up but I thought there was a good chance to knock him out completely and that's why I went for it."
Maynard continued, "In that situation those are the only two choices that you have. After the round ended I got up and was flushed because that was a fast pace right off the bat. You have to have a pace and I just didn't expect things to go down that quickly. Look at Shane Carwin when he fought Brock. I'm sure Carwin was in great shape but when he went for the finish he blew his load. In my case I was definitely in tip-top condition for this fight and after how hectic the first round was I needed to regroup and regain my composure. That is what I did in the second round."
After being knocked down on three hard shots and scrambling for his survival, champion Frankie Edgar came out in the second round looking to get back into the fight. He was able to regain his bearings and come out on the offensive in the second round.
"I knew after the first round that it was going to be a five round fight," Maynard stated. "After he took those hard shots and managed to get his bearings back I needed to adjust. Rounds two through five I had to get my legs back under me and I just didn't feel the snap or turnover in my punches. I felt good and knew I could still fight hard but I didn't feel as sharp and my feet were a little flat. There were just some small adjustments that needed to be made and had I not gone through all of that activity in the first I could have been more crisp."
In the pre-fight build up, Frankie Edgar stated it was his game plan to get Maynard into the fourth and fifth round. Edgar planned to use his experience in five round fights to wear Maynard down where he would then take advantage of him in deep water.
"There was never any question in my mind that I could fight a hard five rounder," Maynard stated. "The only issue I had was the pace of the first round. He was in trouble and I had a bit of an adrenaline dump trying to finish it but that was something I just had to adjust to. I knew I could fight five rounds. I could have fought ten rounds if that's what it took but with such a high output in the first round I needed to regroup. There was no feeling out period between us. Normally when you see two guys fight the first minute or two is spent posturing and maneuvering but that didn't happen in with us. I hit him with that shot that dropped him and we went from there."
We'll hear how Gray felt when word initially came down that Anthony Pettis would get the next shot at Edgar in the full entry.
"I know stuff will play out and I try not to get mad about it too quickly," Maynard answered when asked about the original word that Pettis would be fighting Edgar and there would be no rematch. "Obviously I was in shock and a bit hurt by it but I knew there was a chance it might not be true. I didn't know what was going on and wanted to wait to hear the official word before I reacted. When I finally heard that we were getting the immediate rematch I felt really good about it. I'm loving the fact that we get to do it again. He's a pretty tough kid and I hit him with a lot of big shots. He took my best punch, I took his and over the course of the fight we threw a lot of artillery. It was a very active fight but that is what we prepared for."
After the bout between Edgar and Maynard was announced there was a backlash throughout the MMA community that the fight was going to be one of the most boring fights of the year. While Edgar was coming off two dominant performances against former champion B.J. Penn and Maynard had defeated a who's who of lightweight contenders, there was still a stigma that the headlining bout for UFC 125 was lackluster. After the five blood and guts round that were displayed on Saturday night, few can say the bout didn't deliver on all fronts.
"People say it all the time but it's true that styles make fights," Maynard replied when asked about the assumption the fight would be boring. "Some of the people I have fought in the past I have had to prepare for different aspects of their games. There were guys who fought southpaw, some forced a slow pace but those are things you prepare for and then it is your job to figure out how to best whatever they are bringing to the table. As far as the criticism people can talk because that's what they do. I fight. They don't. I's really that simple. It's my job to go out, win fights, and that's what I have to do. Winning is my main goal and there is nothing that is going to change about that. People also have to understand that not every fight is going to be exciting. There are going to be fights that put on a good show and in the same turn there are going to be fights that don't. Not every bout is going to be a bar room brawl. Then some matchups are slugfests where two guys get in there and fucking let it loose and it's pop, pop, pop. Other fights are technical chess matches where you don't rush in, pick your windows and expose the weaknesses you have planned for. There are entertaining aspects to every fight and most of the time it comes down to stylistic matchups but it all depends on what the person watching is into. I look at an NFL game and I have zero interest in what is going on. I don't like the sport but there are millions of people who are crazy passionate about it. I just go out there and fight. People can say whatever they want."
With the interview coming to a close Maynard took the final moments to address what his future plans entail and shout out some of the sponsors who have helped him along the way.
"I'm going to rest up for a bit, chill out and wait for the word," Maynard concluded. "I also want to thank Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, X-Cap, Dethrone, Forgiven, MMA Elite, Ghost Motorsports, The Encore Group, Tilted Kilt, Aces Bar & Grill and of the other sponsors that support me. Make sure you check out my website GrayMaynard.com and the new Bully Brand shirts that are available."