What is Your Most Memorable Fight? And Why?
Maia: It`s really tough to say. There are so many memorable ones, like both my ADCC World Submission Grappling Championship Final Matches in 2005 and 2007, my BJJ World Cup final match against Jacare in 2005, and winning three MMA fights in one night at the “Super Challenge” MMA tourney in 2006. It made everybody realize my MMA career was serious. Some fights in the UFC like my wins against Chael Sonnen, John Fitch, Matt Brown, Carlos Condit and many others were also memorable. All are special and have different meanings.
What Made You Get Into the MMA?
Maia: I’ve always liked Martial Arts, ever since I was little. I started with Judo and later did Kung Fu. In my teen days, when I started to watch the fight “Vale Tudo” (NHB), which was the sport that later transformed into MMA, I knew that was what I wanted to do. It was one of the reasons that led me to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as watching Royce Gracie in the first UFCs and the first challenge matches between BJJ and other Martial Arts got me hooked also, and I knew that was the way to go. When I begain to train BJJ, I fell in love with Grappling and dove into its competitions but never lost MMA from my sight. I did my first MMA bout in 2002 in Venezuela, just to give it a try, and ended up fighting a guy about 60 lbs heavier than me, won, but went back to Grappling competitions only for a while. When finally, a few years later, I started to take MMA more seriously, I won a few fights in a row, and moved into the UFC in 2007. Almost ten years there already!
What is Your Biggest Goal or Challenge for 2017?
Maia: I make it no secret to anyone that I want to fight for the belt, and my dream is to become a UFC champion. I feel like I did enough to get a title shot, winning six fights in a row in the Welterweight division, and dominating most of my fights, I hope that in 2017 I finally get this chance to compete for the title, and hopefully win it. In the meantime, all I can do is try to be the best I can be everyday.
Where Do You See Yourself and Your Legacy in Five Years?
Maia: I have been evaluating my life quite a bit in the past few years, and I now understand that one of my missions in life is to try to influence other people’s lives and make them better through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I hope to fight in the UFC for as long as I can, and I don’t know if I’ll fight five more years or not, but I’ll certainly be teaching BJJ and helping others through as much as possible.
Who is the One Person You Always Wanted to Fight But Have Never Been Able to? And Why?
Maia: So far, the UFC Welterweight Champion! (Laughs) I have been wanting to fight for the belt and have a chance at the Welterweight division for almost five years already now, and for reasons that are sometimes tough to understand it hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully it will happen soon.
What is the Biggest Challenge Fighters Face When Going From a Smaller Fight Promotion to the UFC?
Maia: I think mainly the pressure. Obviously the level of competition is higher on average in the UFC, and certainly way higher at the top of the weight classes. But the biggest difference is the overall pressure you carry. As you know, you can’t really lose a couple of fights in a row. The stakes are higher and each loss makes your whole future questionable in this game, especially when you are starting out. It’s kind of funny, but I always say that after a win in the UFC the biggest feeling you get is relief, because of all that pressure that builds up until fight time.
Have You Ever Had to Fight Someone You Are Good Friends With or Training Partners With?
Maia: In Grappling competitions, such as Jiu Jitsu, it used to happen often. It was much easier because we were already used to competing against our teammates in the trials for a spot to represent our team, Alliance Jiu Jitsu. In BJJ there are no strikes so it’s different, in MMA I have never had to fight a real friend or a training partner, and I don’t think I could do it if I had to.
What is Your Opinion on the Latest Challenges Fighters Face With Wages and Getting Endorsements Now That Reebok is the Official Clothing Sponsor of the UFC?
Maia: That’s a good question. The whole landscape changed a lot since the Reebok deal took place in the UFC. A lot of companies just moved out of the business, or changed their business model, moving to other promotions, and sponsorship payments in the MMA overall got smaller. You have to keep in mind our sport is still young, and a lot of things are still developing. I am confident that over the next years the industry will continue to grow and the market will evolve and adapt to different scenarios. We will see what the future brings, sometimes you have to take one step back to move forward, and hopefully that is the case for us fighters.
What Does a Normal Day Look Like for You When You Are in Training Camp for a Fight?
Wake-up – 8:00 am
Training? Usually twice a day, at 11 AM and 6:30 PM, with the training changing from BJJ to Wrestling, Boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, or S&C, depending on the schedule.
Meals? About five meals a day, from Breakfast to Dinner or sometimes a late night snack.
Stretching? Usually once or twice a day, after training sessions. During warmups I use more of an active stretch instead of traditional stretching.
Massage Therapy? Usually once a week, and in training camps twice a week. Either massage to relax muscles, or physical therapy manipulation to improve posture, etc.
Sleep? About eight hours per night, and a quick nap between training sessions on weekdays.
Supplements? Protein. The usual Isolate Whey Protein, Glutamine, BCAA’s, and Vitamins, etc.
Dieting? I don’t eat a lot, and try to eat healthy with a bit of carbs, good fat, some greens and quality protein.
What is the First Thing You Crave or Try to Eat After Finishing a Hard Training Camp and Weigh-ins, or the Meal You Reward Yourself With After a Win?
Maia: Good question! (Laughs) After Weigh-ins I stick to quality foods, obviously adding carbs, but following the routine established by my team as this is a crucial time where you have to keep in mind that the work isn’t done yet. It’s normal that when a fighter makes weight he feels like he did his job and he wants to relax too much, but the job is actually the fight itself, and recovering weight properly and putting yourself in good condition to perform well at the fight is just as important. I try to keep that in mind and just follow the proper steps. After a fight though, I take the chance to eat a bit of junk food, some sweets, and be happier for a while (Laughs). That doesn’t last long though, as I like to remain active and healthy to make the best use of the last years of my professional career.
Any Superstitions or Rituals You Try to Stick to? Lucky Shorts? Anything?
Maia: Not really. I know a lot of people have them, but there’s nothing I do out of superstition. We do have rituals that are part of our preparation and warm up leading up to the moments right before the fight. In the end it becomes routine and that helps you to be confident. Fighters tend to build confidence through routines, but it’s not really a superstition.
Do You Have Any Fighters You Are Mentoring or That We Should Be on the Lookout For? Someone You Expect to Make a Big Impact on the Fight Scene Over 2017-2018?
Maia: We have a group of guys who are young and training hard at our gym “Vila da Luta – Demian Maia Jiu Jitsu”, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Some of them are still green, but maybe between 2017 and 2018 they might make it to the UFC. Guys like Danilo Marques, Jack “Godzilla”, Diego Paiva, are all young guys who are slowly growing up into future quality international fighters. Also, a guy that trains with us every now and then, and has the talent to be a world champion one day, is Matheus Nicolau. He’s already a UFC fighter. Between having potential, and becoming a UFC champion, there are several obstacles in the way, so we will see. But he certainly has the tools to go far in this game!
Favorite Place to Fight? Why?
Maia: That’s a tough one! I love fighting in Brazil for obvious reasons. It’s always great to fight at home and have the support of the crowd. It brings great energy, but I must admit, I do like fighting in Las Vegas as well. I got into the UFC at a time where many of the cards were being held in Vegas and they weren’t doing Brazil cards back then. I got used to it, and I have fought several times in Vegas through my UFC career, with only one loss in a “Fight of the Night” effort. I feel at home fighting in Vegas, and it brings a good feeling since it has been a good story for me there throughout my career.
Favorite Place to Travel for R&R?
Maia: Another good one! I love nature. I built my house around a forest near Sao Paulo, a bit outside of town. I love the fact that I can have my kids growing up around nature, and when I have a chance I love to travel to places where I can also have some sort of contact with nature. Whether it’s a beach or to different landscapes like Finland for example, being around nature always makes me feel good and more relaxed. It recharges my energy for sure, and in the end this is what we are all made of.
What Do You Find to Be the Most Challenging Part in Preparation for a Fight? Dieting? Heavy Training?
Maia: I love training. I think the day where I don’t enjoy training anymore is the day I’ll quit fighting professionally and retire. You have to always enjoy being a student and learning to improve your techniques and training brings me this. Dieting has become a natural part of my life so I can perform well, and make my career last longer as well as set a good example for my kids. I think the toughest part is controlling the anxiety of wanting to compete and get the pressure over with. It’s not about the fight itself, the competition or even the training, it’s about the stakes and the impact of the fight. Those few minutes are going to have an impact on the opportunities to follow and how people will perceive you, what you’ll be able to make, and what you’ll be able to bring to those who depend on you. It’s a tough environment and the pressure is really the uncomfortable part of preparing for an important fight, and that’s all part of the game and you learn to control it and deal with it.