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Exclusive: Gray Maynard Says Nate Diaz Is “Tricky,” But Don’t Read Too Much Into Their First Meeting

(Now that we’ve seen Gray’s sparring partners, his boast about having never lost a round in training seems a little less impressive.)

By Elias Cepeda for

When Gray Maynard (9-0-1) got matched up with Roger Huerta last September, many picked the former Michigan State Wrestler to steamroll the cover boy and aspiring movie actor. And though Maynard clearly and cleanly won, it was a tough-fought decision victory.

Fortunately for the Xtreme Couture team member, he fully expected a hard fight from Huerta, even if others did not. “He can scramble really well, he’s good inside and he can box,” Maynard says. “You’ve got to give him more credit. He doesn’t quit so you know it’s going to be a tough one.”

The win was the undefeated lightweight’s sixth consecutive in the UFC and observers wonder how close Maynard is to getting a title shot. Despite one of the most impressive runs in the division and wins over other top guys like Frankie Edgar, the timing hasn’t quite worked out for Maynard yet and he’s yet to be booked for a championship bout.

He will, however, share top billing with Nate Diaz (11-4) Monday night as the main event of the latest UFC Fight Night on Spike. The fight is a rematch – sort of.

As members of the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter reality fighting series the two faced one another in an exhibition match not listed on their official records and Diaz beat Maynard. At the time, Maynard was new to MMA and essentially still just a wrestler.

He feels that both he and Diaz are entirely different fighters now, over two years later. “The TV show is a reality show but its anything but,” Maynard explains. “Who lives and trains with the guys that you are going to be going up against? Its weird. I don’t think that was the best Nate and the best me. It was maybe a blessing just because I knew where I had to go and what I had to do afterwards.”

What Maynard did was work on his weaknesses with some of the best trainers and fighters in the world in Las Vegas. His progress as a fighter has been evident, with improved submission defense and boxing skills.

Losing to Diaz spurred him on and helped Maynard work off of his self-appointed underdog role. “I always tell myself I’m the underdog; ‘you’ve got to train harder you’ve got to do more.’”

For a former wrestler nicknamed “The Bully,” Maynard has an ironically soft-spoken and humble way of talking about himself and fighting. Case in point is his constant deferential way of answering questions about his deserving a title shot.

When pressed, he admits that should he get past Diaz on Monday, he could be considered deserving of a date with champion BJ Penn. But the workman-like fighter only concedes that with a caveat.

“Yeah. I mean if Diego [Sanchez] had it in two then I could. But again, I gotta get past Nate. He’s a tough guy and whatever happens will happen. And I’m the type of guy where the boss is the boss and I kind of do what he tells me to. I just [know] that if I do what I need to, when it comes I’ll be prepared. That’s up to them. All I can do is my job, and that’s get ready to fight.”

Maynard is a company man and doesn’t want to seem demanding of his employers, but he also knows that Nate Diaz is damn good and a threat all fight long. All Maynard has to do is look at Diaz’s last fight where he was losing for two rounds against Melvin Guillard when the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a last minute submission.

“I see him as very tricky,” Maynard assesses. “He’s got good Jiu Jitsu. He’s a tough kid, has good cardio and he recovers quickly. He got dropped before but he recovered quickly. He’s just a dangerous guy. You have to have a good game plan and that goes for all of the top guys. You’ve got to have a good camp, a good game plan and be on point the night of. And you’ve got to be prepared to go three hard rounds.”

Maynard also has to be mentally prepared to put his friendly acquaintance with Diaz aside. The two got along on the TUF show and stayed in touch occasionally afterwards. Unsurprisingly, Maynard says that he’s up to that task, that he’s a pro and will do his job on fight night.

And if he beats Diaz Maynard may have to do that all over again right away. One of Maynard’s first MMA experiences came when he was brought in to help with a BJ Penn fight camp. Penn then coached Maynard on TUF 5 and the two have always seemed to be on good terms.

If and when Maynard’s title shot comes, and if Penn is still the man with the belt at that time, the contender says he won’t hesitate to fight tooth and nail to make his championship dreams come true. “I started wrestling when I was 3. You train with whoever but ultimately you owe it to yourself to achieve the ultimate goals. You just can’t step back and say, ‘well I knew him for a bit and we trained and whoever it is, so I’m not going to have the chance to achieve the ultimate goal that I’ve been training for my whole life,’” Maynard says.

“It’s a job and we’ve got to do our job.”

Cagepotato Comments

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Elias- January 8, 2010 at 8:11 pm
lol, thanks abenormal!
abenormal- January 8, 2010 at 10:30 am
This article just ground out a decision win over my attention span.

Just kidding Elias! Nice work, pay no mind to all the jerks around here.
Elias- January 8, 2010 at 9:34 am
@adamking HaHa, that's right!

Fair points, portland. I can't disagree. It's always just rough to say one guy isn't "the guy" when he beats the former "guy," in this case we mean top contender.
adamking- January 8, 2010 at 9:33 am
(In the pic) Those are actually more Diaz brothers, Gray spilled water on Nate and they just popped out so he feels responsible....but if you get them high and feed them past midnight they turn into Nick.
portland mma- January 8, 2010 at 9:15 am
I think if Nate wins you give him another tough fight, but not a title shot. I would honestly love to see Jim Miller against Nate Diaz to be honest, but I don't know how many other people may be interested in that fight. I also think the difference between Diaz getting a shot and Diego getting his, is that Diego has a ton of exposure. Not to say Diaz doesn't have exposure, but Diego won the first TUF and has like a 10-3 record in the UFC and has only lost to top 5 fighters.
Elias- January 8, 2010 at 8:49 am
portland mma, I agree. What do you think of where Nate Diaz should he beat the guy we're both saying should be getting a title shot next? Matchup wise, if he can beat Maynard, heck, he's got as good a shot as anyone. But record wise, he'll have just a two fight win streak. Then again, both would have been main event wins, one against Maynard and heck, another TUF winner (Sanchez) got a shot after two fights in the division. Your thoughts?
portland mma- January 8, 2010 at 8:08 am
I just commented about Edgar getting his shot over Maynard the other day, it honestly blows my mind. Edgar does have some names under his belt, but Maynard beat him 30-27 on all the judges scorecards. Not to mention the fact Edgar is a small guy for 155, which is horrible considering no one at 155 can touch BJ, especially a guy whose small for his weight. The only thing I can think of is lots of people aren't real excited about Gray Maynard's fights and it might be hard to sell a fight with BJ, but you'd have to have that same argument with Edgar least Gray trained with BJ and he was his coach on TUF so you could spin something.
portland mma- January 8, 2010 at 8:03 am
Good piece, I like the article type format, keep em' coming.

As far as Maynard vs Diaz goes, Nate is one of my favorite fighters but I think Maynard's wrestling is going to be too good, and now that he has sub defense its going to be a grind it out victory...Nate always has a chance of landing something though.
Elias- January 8, 2010 at 8:00 am
Thanks for reading and for posting, Onan!

The "everyone other than BJ Penn" lightweight situation is tough right now because while I agree with you that Maynard shouldn't be considered a favorite to beat Penn, who would? I don't think anyone in the UFC division or world at that weight is "ready" to beat Penn. So it becomes, who has most "earned" the right to challenge him? Pretty good case for Maynard already. If he beats Diaz, then definitely. So basically, I really do agree with you that there isn't anyone in the division I'd pick right now as a favorite to "keep BJ on the mat," or outstrike him for that matter. Tough, tough situation for everyone else. But I still do enjoy seeing Penn take on challengers. Let's him prove his dominance or lets a challenger prove all of us wrong.

There are rumors now of Frankie Edgar getting a shot. Does anyone else find this a bit wierd? I think Edgar is a great fighter and if he hadn't lost to Maynard, I'd have him there for a title shot. Its especially weird because Gray is fighting so close to BJ's last fight, which means that their schedules are kind of synched up at this point and that if Gray doesn't get injured badly enough to miss whatever date they are looking at for Penn's next defense, he could be there for it.

Anyway, I doubt the UFC has anything set in stone. Hopefully they will wait to see what happens here in this bout with Maynard and Diaz to figure it out.
Onan- January 8, 2010 at 7:21 am

I enjoy your departure from the typical "cage potato" style post. Keep doing things your way. Changing your writing style to please a bunch of folks who think cris cyborg penis jokes are clever (maybe the first one was) is not a good career move.

Well written, if perhaps a little long for what is essentially a blog.

As for Maynard, I think he is a long way from being ready for BJ. He doesn't seem to have the skill set to finish someone like Penn and neither he nor anyone else at 155 is strong enough to keep BJ on the mat so lay n pray is out of the question.
ReX13- January 8, 2010 at 7:01 am
Elias>> Dyph and others have given you some support and tried to gently point out that your format is noticeably different from the other writers on CagePotato. Surely you understand that it is important to know your audience and forum. So why do you continue to turn in these straight line informational pieces? Surely you have a sense of humor--why not let loose a bit when writing for us?

Or is it a running gag at this point, writing these dry posts in hopes of making some of the readers irate?

skeletor- January 8, 2010 at 5:41 am
Elias vs. Gray in a who's the most boring mother fucker on CP fight to the death. I'm rooting for Gray.
robthom- January 8, 2010 at 12:01 am
Huerta seemed to be a little bit of an asshole and I'm satisfied with him being gone now, but he was a decent fighter.

Not sure who was expecting Gray to steamroll him or for Huerta not to be a hard fight.
intercept440- January 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm
theres two things here... those are either gray maynards kids cause he bangs a hot latina... or those are a few illegal guatamalan's smuggled into the country for use as a medicine ball
SweetAfflictionShirt- January 7, 2010 at 9:14 pm
Saint Edward High School.
mthomas- January 7, 2010 at 7:41 pm
@ Contraband: LOL! (It kinda DOES look like a slightly smaller version of Torres)
iDestroy- January 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm
At first, I thought skeletor was just being a jerk (not to say he's not a jerk, that's a given), but he's right. I hate reading Elias' columns. I didn't even finish this one.
Contraband- January 7, 2010 at 6:03 pm
migel torres usally train with grey?
Dyph- January 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Similar take as your previous two articles for CP; decently presented, but with the feel of a baseball stats writer behind my Sunday edition. Unfortunately a broad part of your reader spectrum is people habitually working 'tl:dr' into their daily meanderings with a sincere, passionate hate for punctuation and coherent grammar. I don't necessarily think that anything is 'wrong' with your writing style, but as in the past few weeks, I doubt you'll find much appreciation on a site like this.

As always, I PERSONALLY enjoyed it still, and hope to see more.
nicey- January 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm
yup wheres the wit?
FreddyFangers- January 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm
@onetwo- Maynard won a split decision.
FreddyFangers- January 7, 2010 at 5:35 pm
Well, so far most of the articles I have read from "CagePotato Contributors" have been pretty awful and tedious to read. I dont come to this site to read newspaper format articles, thats what Sherdog is for. Tighten up these long ass sagas and try to add a little interesting humor to it if you are gonna write here please.

Dictated but not typed by FreddyFangers
ChuckLiddellsMohawk- January 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm
war gray!!
One Two- January 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm
wasn't that Huerta fight a split decision? I thought Huerta won i don't know I'm not gonna rewatch a maynard fight i'd rather watch a hugh jackman movie while listening to a daughtry cd than watch that guy fight.

diaz by submission hopefully or its 3 rds of wrestling lay n pray