Well, this is kinda cool. In today’s MMA career symmetry news, MMA Fighting speaks with UFC welterweight contender Demian Maia about returning to the arena where he first made a name for himself in MMA.
“Maia became famous in the MMA world on Oct. 7, 2006, when he dominated three opponents in one night to win the Super Challenge middleweight tournament. The event took place at Jose Correa Gymnasium, the same arena that will host UFN 29,” where Maia will fight Jake Shields, they report.
The Super Challenge middleweight tournament had names like Gustavo Machado, Fabio Nascimento, Alexandre Ferreira, Katel Kubis and Leonardo Nascimento involved. In the end, the underdog prevailed for the title.
“I thought ‘okay, let’s see what happens,’” said Maia. “Paulo Vasconcelos was the promoter and he invited me to fight. I said ‘I don’t know, give me a submission or jiu-jitsu fight, but he couldn’t find an opponent to fight me. Josuel Distak, who was one of my coaches at that time, said I’d win the tournament, so I basically was thrown in there by them.”
“I lived in Barueri for a long time, and now I live in a city close to Barueri, so it’s like my backyard. Three years ago, we never imagined that the UFC would return to Brazil again. I expected to end my career fighting only outside of Brazil, and now I have the chance to fight at home.”
A year after winning that tournament in Brazil, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt was fighting in the UFC as a middleweight. Maia worked all the way to a 2010 title shot against Anderson Silva.
After losing a decision to now champion, Chris Weidman, Maia moved down to the welterweight division, where he is undefeated. Maia is not a star on the level of Vitor Belfort or Silva but it will be interesting to see the reception he gets from his home town crowd against Shields.
If Maia gets past the former welterweight title challenger, it will also be interesting to see if he finds himself on a short list of 170 pound contenders. The winner of Maia/Shields against the winner of Rory MacDonald/Robbie Lawler, anyone?