CREST HILL, Ill. -- A long line snaked around a cage, past a boxing ring and grappling mats towards the stairs. The line moved at a glacially slow pace, but everyone was in high spirits. They didn't mind waiting on line to see their favorite fighter, Clay Guida.
Inside the cage, Guida energetically signed autographs, posed for pictures and hugged his fans at the new gym in suburban Chicago that bears his name. He had been there for hours, but showed no signs of slowing down, which is not too different than his fighting style. He kept up the pace for fans who had driven from all over the Midwest to see him.
"We had a guy drive 550 miles from Paducah, Ky., and we had a guy who was sitting in the parking lot at 8:00 a.m. this morning for us, people from DeKalb, Wisconsin, Indiana," Guida told Cagewriter.
He is sometimes surprised by his popularity and asks fans why they would go to such lengths.
"I ask them why, and they're very complimentary, and you feel that. You're speechless sometimes when you think of the support you've had from the first day I've started wrestling to now."
The support is obvious when looking around the room in the newly built MMA Stop Fitness. In addition to the fans, the room is filled with family, friends, training partners and coaches. His mother even brought a plant to christen the gym.
Those same people who supported him on Saturday will be tuning into Spike on June 4, as Guida takes on WEC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis in his UFC debut.
"I've got a big date coming up. Even more excited about that than the gym. I'm fighting Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis. He's gonna make his debut in the UFC, and it's not going to be a fun one for him."
This will be Guida's third fight at the Pearl at the Palms on a finale card for "The Ultimate Fighter." The other two bouts were classic battles with Roger Huerta and Diego Sanchez that earned Guida Fight of the Night bonuses and accolades, but not wins.
"I've had a rough go in the Palms. I'm 0-2 against Roger Huerta and Diego Sanchez. The 0s got to go."
Guida is determined to stop the Pettis hype train, that was kicked into high gear when Pettis threw a mind-blowing kick in his last WEC bout.
"We've fought a lot of guys with hype behind them. We train harder. We want the best guys because then we get to put on the best shows. Vegas is where I do my best work. June 4 is going to tell the tale."
Even with the new gym, Guida's training is not going to change. He will still head to New Mexico and Greg Jackson's MMA to prepare for his bout with Pettis. He says that the new gym is more to help people get healthy and stay fit, but he will pop in for seminars as will the likes of Jon Jones, Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin.
But for now, his mind is focused on Pettis, who was promised a title shot, but was given Guida instead Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar fought to a draw in their title bout on New Year's Day.
"After June 4th, he's not going to get a title shot. I'm impressed with his never say die attitude. I think his opponents respect him too much. He doesn't have the experience I have. He hasn't trained at the places I have -- Jackson's, Gilbert Grappling, Midwest Training Center. He hasn't fought the wars I have. He's super confident right now, but I'm going to stop that wave. "