There was a time when UFC lightweight Gray Maynard looked pretty close to unstoppable. The former college wrestler burst onto the MMA scene and rose through the ranks all the way to a title shot against a man - Frankie Edgar - he'd already dominated once before.
Then, Maynard had to settle for a draw with Edgar despite nearly knocking him out in the first round. Then, Maynard himself was knocked out in their third bout.
Maynard won a controversial decision over Clay Guida next, and then was knocked out two more times in succession by TJ Grant and Nate Diaz. The Diaz loss was last November and Maynard has not fought since then.
He also never seriously considered hanging up his gloves, either, according to an interview with Thomas Gerbasi. Maynard said he lost his focus for a bit, and paid for it.
“There was just a lot going on,” he said,
“Tt isn’t an excuse, but I was just going out there and going through the motions. If you’re not alert and you’re not on point, that’s how you get caught and get dropped. A loss always hurts, but if it was something where I got beat up for the whole time, then I’d probably have a lot to look at, but the last two were kind of quick and I think it was the mental lapses. It happens. But you can’t have that, especially going up against top ten guys. You’ve got to be on point.”
Maynard has far from given up on his MMA career, however, and has moved his training camp to Arizona and the Power MMA team lead by Aaron Simpson. "The Bully" looks to another UFC star who changed camps and has experienced a career turn-around in Robbie Lawler.
“A lot of people said ‘yeah, he’s kinda done,’ and then he just roared back and did awesome,” Maynard said of Lawler.
“I think it was his new camp [at American Top Team] and the new attitude.”
On Saturday, Maynard's road back begins with a fight against Ross Pearson on the UFC Fight Night card in Maine. Though the fighter has confidence in himself, he can't promise any particular result.
Though, as he reflects on the unpredictable nature of the sport, it's clear he's optimistic. "It is a crazy game," he said.