Gray Maynard is tired of fighting tough guys who do little for his career. He’s looking for a name that pushes him toward a title shot with UFC lightweight champ B.J. Penn.
“That’s just where I’m at,” Maynard today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “The last three or four (fights) I’ve had tough ones, but they’re just not that name. It’s like, ‘Ah well, he beat Nate (Diaz), but he was supposed to. He beat (Rich) Clementi, but he was supposed to.'”
That’s why today on Twitter he called out the winner of a March 31 UFC Fight Night 21 headliner between two-time title challenger Kenny Florian and Japanese import Takanori Gomi.
Maynard (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC), a 30-year-old Las Vegas native and veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter 5,” quietly has built a virtually spotless UFC record by taking on fighters who matchmaker Joe Silva struggled to book at the time.
His past five opponents – Frankie Edgar, Rich Clementi, Jim Miller, Roger Huerta, and most recently, Nate Diaz – were fights in which he had a lot more to lose than to gain.
He’s beaten them all with a solid mix of boxing and wrestling in 15-minute wars that all went the distance. But as a result, Maynard said, it’s been harder for him to build the “wow factor” necessary to get big opportunities.
Fighting the winner of Florian vs. Gomi is the perfect solution.
“If Florian beats him, [Florian has] a great name,” Maynard said. “It’s like, ‘Florian’s unbelievable, he beat the PRIDE champ’. … It doesn’t matter if [Gomi] is still good or not; it’s his name (that matters).”
Maynard said his split-decision win over Diaz at UFC Fight Night 20 felt more like a loss because he did not earn a title shot from UFC president Dana White.
Not long after the Jan. 11 fight, he watched as White gave the lightweight title shot to Edgar, whom he beat nearly two years ago. The UFC president said Edgar earned the position with a dominating performance over former champion Sean Sherk this past May.
It chafed Maynard even more because he had campaigned for a fight with Sherk.
“I asked for Sherk two or three times, and he said no,” Maynard said. “To me, it isn’t that tough of a fight. I think Miller, Diaz, Huerta – that’s more of a tough one.
“But [Sherk] has a name because he was a champ. I was trying to (get the fight), but he said no. And I was like, ‘Well, I’ll keep that quiet, I guess. He’s got a job, and he’s doing what he has to do, but I would have liked to have that fight.'”
Edgar vies for Penn’s belt next month at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi.
Maynard, meanwhile, currently is rehabbing injuries and said he most likely won’t be able to fight until July. Most top lightweights are booked in the coming months, though George Sotiropoulos, who put himself in the title picture with a win over former contender Joe Stevenson at UFC 110, is in the clear.
Maynard is less than excited about that potential matchup.
“Yeah, George is a tough fight, but how much is he going to do for my career?” Maynard asked. “I’ll take it if I have to, but if I have a chance for Florian or a name, then I’m going to jump on that.”
Maynard said he hasn’t heard from the UFC about his next opponent, but when the promotion today asked its Twitter followers which March fight they are most excited about, he couldn’t resist commenting on the UFC Fight Night 21 headliner.
“I think Florian will win,” Maynard said. “I don’t know if Gomi’s really into it anymore. The last two or three (fights), he’s looked like he hasn’t really trained. It’s just like, ‘Ah, I’m here for the paycheck.’ But obviously he’s tough, and he’s a good name.”
If Florian is victorious – and Maynard believes he will be – it’s an opportunity rife with possibility.
“I think I’ve earned it, so hopefully it will happen,” Maynard said.