Next Wednesday Gray Maynard will try to help escort Roger Huerta out of the UFC at Spike TV’s Fight Night 19. In talking with him for an SI.com feature this week, “The Bully” expressed an unwavering desire to stay out of whatever drama may be going on between Huerta and the UFC, but he also expects to put some of his newly-developed skills on display in hopes of getting MMA fans to finally stand up and take notice of him.
When we saw you in your last fight against Jim Miller, you seemed to have really improved your boxing skills, and that surprised some people.
Yeah, I got with a coach, Gil Martinez, who helped coach [Randy] Couture. I’ve been with him for about a year and a half now. When I was getting prepared for [Frankie] Edgar I knew I had to get it going. I’ve been going with him pretty much every day. He has a small gym and he has a bunch of kids who can really box. I’ve been going over there and doing drills and training every day. He’s a great coach. I was able to do a little bit against Edgar, where that fight was about half stand-up. It’s slow to develop. It takes time.
What’s been the hardest part for you in transitioning from wrestling to MMA?
Hours in the day. There’s not enough hours in the day. That’s the hardest part. You’re trying to work your stand-up, your jiu-jitsu, your strength, just all the different stuff, and there’s just not enough time. If you try to hit it all every day, you’re body is going to say, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t think so.’ It’s hard, but you have to stay after it and be patient.
You don’t seem to get the same promotional push from the UFC that a lot of other guys with inferior records get. Why do you think that is?
It hasn’t even crossed my mind. I have a job to do and if I keep doing it, that other stuff will come. I’m not one to say, ‘Why isn’t the UFC doing this or that for me?’ I just have to keep doing my job and trust that the other stuff will come.
Do you think you’ve done enough to deserve consideration for a title shot?
In my head, no, I haven’t. The key is, you’ve got to have people who are eager to pay to check you out. After the TV show, it was a slow development for me. I had to keep learning in the gym. I could strike a little, but not much. Jiu-jitsu, I was okay. So I had to improve on all that. If I keep doing that, I think people will start to say, ‘Hey, this guy is good. I want to see him again.’ It’s coming, but I’m not there yet.
Do you think the reason fans may not be as excited about seeing you is that you tend to win your fights by decision? Do you think you have to start finishing people to get that reaction?
I don’t think it’s that, just because I don’t care if you’re B.J. Penn or Frankie Edgar or Diego Sanchez, in three rounds, it’s tough to end a fight if the guy is tough. I don’t care who you are. If you’re going up against a top guy, it’s going to be tough to end it. I think you’ve just got to build on it each time, and I’m doing that. I got time.
We all know that Huerta has had his disagreements with the UFC and it seems like he wants to move on to acting full-time at this point. What are you expecting out of him next week?
I’m expecting him to be 100%. I’m prepared for him to be tough. You could talk yourself into thinking that he’s not going to be prepared or motivated, but that’s the wrong attitude to have. I’m prepared for a tough scrap.
When you’ve watched his past fights, what do you think he does well?
When I watch his technique, he comes straight and doesn’t use too many angles. He makes up for all that with heart, though. He really does. He just keeps going, and that’s always a tough fight.
Do you think the UFC is putting him up against you in the hopes that you’ll send him out on a loss?
I keep out of that stuff. I don’t know what’s going on. They gave me a job and I’m going to do that job. That’s all it is. If I start thinking, I’m going to kick his butt because of this, then I lose sight of that. I don’t want no drama, don’t want to be in anybody’s shit, so I keep out of it.
Now that your stand-up has improved, do you feel like you want to use that more in order to prove to people that you can do it?
I don’t think it’s about proving anything. It’s more that as you’re training for a year or two or three in something, you just get more comfortable in different places and you try and expand. It’s not that I want to prove anything, but on the feet I feel like now, hey, I’m okay here. If you get clipped, you get clipped. But you have to evolve along with everyone else.
We’ve heard a lot of fighters say they’d never fight a teammate. You train at Xtreme Couture, which has a ton of top-level fighters coming in and out. Would you ever fight one of your teammates?
Well, you’ve got guys who come in and out and, you know, I’d rather not fight those guys, but if I have to then I have to. But then you’ve got the guys who you’re really close to. You want to put that off as long as you can and hopefully it will never come. But if I was to go up against a guy who was close, it would have to be for a belt. That’s the only way I could see doing it.
What do you think has been the biggest difference-maker for you in the time since you were on TUF?
Man, it’s been two years. Two years in the gym, two times a day, that will change you. It really does take time. People can say, he can’t strike, he doesn’t have any hands. Well, I was just getting into the sport back then. It all takes time. If it was easy, everyone would be great strikers right off the bat. You can’t rush that. There’s a lot of shit to learn in this sport.