The National Hockey League presents an annual award called the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. According to NHL.com, the Lady Byng is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.
MMA is not a sport that offers accommodations for congeniality but if there was a Lady Byng Trophy in MMA, undefeated UFC Brazilian middleweight Demian Maia would be a leading contender.
Despite being one of the most skilled jiu-jitsu black belts in the world and being capable of ripping multiple limbs from the human body within seconds, Maia just happens to be one of the sport’s true gentlemen.
The classy Maia is set to return to the Octagon this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, England at UFC 95. His calm temperament will once again be on display in a middleweight matchup against Chael Sonnen that is set to air as a part of Spike TV’s telecast in the U.S.
So how does Maia remain so even-keel in a sport that can at times be known for its ruthless aggression?
“I think my mentality comes from my belief in jit-jitsu,” Maia began to explain during an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com. “Jiu-jitsu is what I believe in because the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been founded on the mentality to get the victory without hurting yourself by controlling your opponent without hurting him too much.
“It’s about getting the submission instead of kicking and punching. For me, it’s the nicest way to win. It’s nice to win that way in a sport that is as aggressive as MMA. To be able to walk away with a victory without a scratch to me or my opponent, for me, it’s priceless.”
The 30-year old Sau Paulo native says that one of the reasons why he transitioned from competitive grappling to MMA was so that he could apply the principles of jiu-jitsu in an aggressive style of combat.
“I wanted to prove that you didn’t need to be a violent guy to win in an MMA competition,” he said. “You can use your technique and if you put on good technique then you can win very clean fights.”
But do not let Maia’s compassionate temperament fool you. While he may not be a savage warrior, he is a sportsman and a true competitor in every sense of the word. While he may not enjoy smashing an opponent’s face, he’ll do it if that’s what it takes to win.
“Of course I know I’m fighting MMA,” he began to answer when asked if his reservations for inflicting pain could come back to haunt him. “I know that I need to punch my opponent as hard as I can. I am fighting MMA and not in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If I can win without (punching my opponent), I prefer (that). But if I need to do (then I will). This is a sport and I am not here to be a nice guy, I am here to win.”
And win he has. Since joining the UFC, Maia is 4-0 with four submissions while competing for an organization he has dreamed of fighting for since watching Royce Gracie’s remarkable tournament victory at UFC 1 in 1993.
While Maia says he’s not in the UFC to be a nice guy, he’s exactly that. Which is why it was somewhat out of character when he called out Michael Bisping following his most recent victory over Nate Quarry at UFC 91 in November.
However, Maia was quick to point out to Five Ounces of Pain that he holds no animosity towards Bisping and was simply looking for a chance to serve opposite him as a head coach on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
“The reason why I said I wanted to fight Bisping was because he was one of the guys picked to coach on The Ultimate Fighter,” Maia began to explain. “I heard that they needed another coach and that’s why I said his name. I actually didn’t want to fight him specifically. I just wanted to be a head coach on The Ultimate Fighter.”
Maia has accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. However, there will be no shortage of challenges for him in the UFC’s middleweight division. Future clashes with Bisping and Henderson could be on the horizon and according to Maia, the 185 pound class in the UFC is about to get a major upgrade with occasional training partner Wanderlei Silva looking to drop down in weight.
“Yes, we’ve talked about (his move to middleweight),” Maia said of the legendary Brazilian star. “I think he’s just doing it for the experience and he may move back up after he does it. He wants to see how he looks (but) I don’t think he’s just going to fight at 185. He just wants to try it and see how it goes.”
While a fight against Wanderlei Silva unlikely due to their friendship, a fighter that goes by the same namesake could be next for Maia after Saturday.
“My next fight could be for a title shot if I win,” Maia responded when asked how soon he felt he might be in line to challenge for the UFC middleweight title that is currently held by Anderson Silva. “I hope so but it doesn’t depend on me, it depends on the UFC. But I want to fight for the title if I (defeat Sonnen).”
During a recent interview with the USA Today, Sonnen went on the record to state that Saturday’s fight between him and Maia will determine the UFC’s best middleweight. When asked how he felt about Sonnen’s proclamation, Maia expressed a more diplomatic tone.
“I think both of us could win against Anderson but I don’t think we are better than he is. I think he is the best fighter in the world. He’s a complete fighter; very good standup (and) good ground. He’s very good in all aspects… He’s just the best fighter in the world.”
As much respect as he has for Silva, Maia isn’t willing to concede victory.
“Even though he might be the best, I still think me or Chael can win against him because the type of game that we have. I think our grappling game can make a difference vs. Anderson.”