While he may be one of the greatest jiu-jitsu players to ever put on a gi, Demian Maia never was able to capture a world title in MMA. But that’s something he doesn’t lose sleep over.
The 41-year-old Maia (27-9) finds himself in the midst of a two-fight winning streak in a late career resurgence after dropping three straight to wrestlers Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman from July 2017 to May 2018. The Brazilian submission wizard, who fell short against fellow countryman Anderson Silva for the UFC’s middleweight title nine years ago, was dominant for two rounds on Saturday night at UFC on ESPN 3 , where he scored a majority decision win over Anthony Rocco Martin.
Though the fight wasn’t a barn-burner in terms of excitement, Maia controlled the pace, scored multiple takedowns and survived a late onslaught from Martin in the final stanza to get the judges’ nod.
“Rocco was pretty tough,” Maia said after his triumph. “I didn’t expect he would be so good on the fence with the submissions on the ground. It was tough to find a way to submit him, but I was able to get him down and get him into position. He was very smart in defending my techniques till he was able to stand up again and try to make me stand up.”
Maia knows he won’t be granted another shot at a UFC world title. Maia has very limited time left in the Octagon and simply wants to close the book on his excellent career against solid competition.
“I wish I can fight in Sao Paulo in November,” he said. “Hopefully against Diego Sanchez since he’s been challenging me. It would be a nice fight and maybe it would be my last one, I don’t know. Maybe if it’s not the next one, then a couple more, but for sure no more fights past 2020.”
A Maia-Sanchez matchup would be an intriguing one because of their polar opposite styles. Maia is a methodical tactician with arguably the best jiu-jitsu the sport of MMA has ever seen. Sanchez, a terrific grappler in his own right, is like a raging bull who comes forward constantly with never-ending pressure and cardio. But if they do lock horns and Maia is victorious, he remains steadfast that he’s just about to ride off into the sunset.
“After that, maybe I do a couple more,” he said. “But for sure, this year or next year, I’ll stop and retire. I feel pretty well. That’s why I keep going, because I love what I do. If I start to feel my body, then I will stop. Because I feel so well, I keep going. But I have other projects that I want to do, and that’s the only thing that makes me think about stopping. It’s more about the other things I want to do.
“I love to help spread jiu-jitsu across the world,” he added. “With the UFC being the biggest platform for it, that is why I still do this. I never did this for the money; I do it because I love it.”