On the very first day of what could prove to be one of the biggest years of his career, UFC lightweight standout Gray Maynard fought champion Frankie Edgar to a draw at UFC 125. When the announcement was read, everyone seemed confused and disappointed in the decision as both fighters believed they had done enough to claim the victory. On Maynard's behalf, he unleashed havoc on Edgar during the first round, nearly finishing the champion during several exchanges. Ever the resilient champion, Edgar would not go away and over the next four rounds the momentum switched back and forth. The end result was not only a draw but the UFC immediately announced a third meeting between the two top lightweights at UFC 130 on May 28th. Maynard is back in the gym and I checked in with him for a Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview.
"I've been keeping in the gym," Maynard began. "I'm working on a few new things I'm learning so it's been basically that. I had to do a little bit of traveling but now I'm back to work every day. I've done some outdoors activities as well so I'm just enjoying life. It's the only way to live and if you're not happy then you are doing something wrong. I'm still in the gym working hard every day. Right now I'm focusing on a few of the smaller things I needed to improve on and getting geared up for camp to start."
Frankie Edgar has been the UFC lightweight champion since he dethroned former 155-pound king B.J. Penn at UFC 112. Since the event in Abu Dhabi, the weight class has been up for grabs with a number of fighters attempting to lay claim to the top spot. Of the fighters who are in the cluster for the top position, only Maynard and Edgar fall under the UFC banner and it has been historically difficult for non-UFC fighters to stand at the top of the mountain.
"I think that's going to be the case," Maynard answered when asked if UFC 130 will decide the number one lightweight fighter in the world. "I think Gilbert is a tough kid and he's a good fighter. Eddie Alvarez is good too but they aren't consistently going up against top competition. To be the in the top spot you have to beat the other top fighters. If you look at our top lightweights we are all fighting each other and to get to the top of our division you have to go up against guys like Edgar, Penn, Florian and Jim Miller. There are a bunch of different guys in the UFC lightweight division and it's just stacked. There are no easy fights at 155 pounds and I think to become champion of that division will prove you are the best in the world."
Another recent topic of discussion involving his division has been the announcements of several fighters who plan on making the trip south to 145 lbs. Of the fighters who have made their intentions public, Kenny Florian has drawn the most attention, and while only a handful have indicated they will make the cut, the move could become popular amongst the current lightweight roster.
"I think there are some guys that can and will make that drop," Maynard stated. "I'm not sure if there are a lot of them but I imagine the smaller guys in the weight class will consider it. Tyson, Clay Guida, Edgar -- those guys could all possibly go down at some point and I think they'll be tough if they did."
With the interview coming to a close I asked one of the division's biggest fighters if a future move to the lighter weights was completely out of the question.
"If I'm down at 145 pounds that means I only have one leg," Maynard joked. "You'll see me doing spinning kicks all day long."