The UFC’s welterweight title will be one of three championships on the line this Saturday at UFC 205 in New York City. That belt will be contested by incumbent Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley and challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. As those men duel for the belt, Demian Maia will be sitting close by, watching the action and hoping he will face the winner at the next available opportunity.
“I'm going to UFC 205 as a guest fighter,” Maia told Bloody Elbow. “It will be great to be around, interact with the fans, talk to the press, watch this historic event and most of all watch Wonderboy versus Woodley.”
Though there will be few onlookers with as much interest or insight than Maia, the 3rd ranked welterweight simply can ‘t pick a winner in this highly anticipated co-main event.
“Both are very dangerous, very good fighters,” said Maia. “At this level, especially at the welterweight division, top fighters are very even and anyone can beat anyone on a good night. Just look at the fight between Woodley and Lawler, a lot of people thought Woodley had no chance, and look at what happened.”
Maia believes that Thompson’s footwork, movement, and strikes from distance will “complicate things” for Woodley. However, he also believes that Woodley’s “very heavy right hand” and “great wrestling” could very well decide the fight, also.
Regardless who leaves Madison Square Garden with the 170lb belt Maia is bullish on his chances of being next to face them for the title.
“I'm very confident I'll get a title shot next,” stated Maia. “I have to be.” Maia revealed that he had not been promised the Woodley/Thompson winner and he did concede that nothing is ever “guaranteed in life.” That being said, the fourth-degree BJJ black belt maintained that he was the most appropriate and deserving choice for the next title showdown.
“We have to keep in mind that this is a sport and in order to keep growing we have to always keep that in sight,” said Maia. “The proper balance between spectacle, entertainment, and sport is very important, and I don't see anyone else in the welterweight division deserving the next title shot more than I do at this point.”
Maia listed the credentials he believed equated to him being the best candidate in the race for the 170lb title. Among them were his six-fight winning streak (which most recently featured a first round strangling of Carlos Condit), his 9-2 record in the welterweight division, and the fact that all those wins came against top 15 opponents - excluding Alexander Yakovlev.
"Hi, my name is Demian Maia. I'll be the mixed martial artist choking you out this evening." https://t.co/AVoXb8Rq5F— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) August 28, 2016
Maia also mentioned that all his wins were either finishes or dominant decision victories, and that his only losses at 170lbs were a Fight of the Night versus Rory MacDonald and a split decision loss to Jake Shields (which Maia believes he won).
“Both those guys also have wins over Woodley, and after Wonderboy contends for the belt, who's more deserving of a chance at the moment?” asked Maia, who then went into even more detail on why his run of form is title-challenger material.
“If you look at the recent welterweight title fights [in] history, if memory serves me well, Woodley got a title shot on a two-fight winning streak, Condit got it after one win, Lawler got it after a three-fight win streak, and then again after two wins in a row, Nick Diaz got it after a loss, Rory on a three-fight winning streak... The only exceptions were Hendricks, who won six before a shot, and Wonderboy now, who got his well deserved shot after seven wins in a row.
“So, I really believe I earned it and I have to believe that will be the case. I'm turning 39-years-old, and I feel like I'm still getting better and performing better with each fight. I have been in this sport for a long time, and I paid my dues. I'm going to New York and I want to get the next shot.”
Despite the reasons laid out above by Maia, both Woodley and Thompson recently told the Submission Radio crew that they believed former welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre was a more deserving title challenger.
“I really try not to stress over those kinds of things,” said Maia of Woodley and Thompson’s comments. “Because you can't really stress about things you don't control. GSP's return is not in my control, and we hear so many different things. I mean, he declared himself a free-agent, then he sat with the UFC to discuss his future, and then there were rumors of a fight against Bisping, so who knows?”
Maia also stated that he has a lot of respect for St-Pierre and heralded him as a “great competitor” and “likely the most notable welterweight champion ever.” As to why Woodley and Thompson would rather fight St-Pierre over him, Maia thought the answer was simple, and understandable.
“I think they are most likely considering the money they can make out of that fight,” reckoned Maia. “I mean, who wouldn't want to defend the belt against GSP in a PPV show? I don't want to judge now, they will fight each other and we will see what happens and how things unfold.”
One man who does want to face Maia is Donald Cerrone. Cowboy recently went on record (at a media scrum attended by MMAFighting) stating that he desired a showdown with the Brazilian at UFC 207 in December. Maia struck down the idea of that fight, but didn’t rule out facing Cerrone in the future.
“Cerrone is a great fighter, very tough fighter and he has been fighting pretty much everybody and all the time recently,” said Maia. “I respect him a lot.”
“Right now all I want is to fight for the belt. It's nothing against Cerrone, or nothing against fighting him in the future, I know it would be a good fight, but I don't want to take any other fights before I get my title shot, it certainly wouldn't make sense at this moment to fight at UFC 207.”
With all attention on UFC 205, it won’t be long until we know whether it will be Woodley or Thompson tasked next with defending the UFC’s welterweight crown. What happens after that - with today’s matchmaking - is anybody’s guess. For Demian Maia though, he remains hopeful that Saturday’s winner will be meeting him in the Octagon very soon.