Interview: Clay Guida on His Renewed Motivation, RV Living, and More

(We don’t want to tell you what to do or anything, Clay, but a little bit of leave-in conditioner would sure do wonders.)

by Cage Potato contributor Elias Cepeda

Clay Guida has twice been on the cusp of getting a title shot in the UFC’s ultra-competitive lightweight division, only to come up a little short. On the heels of back-to-back losses against Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian, “The Carpenter” has a chance to get things rolling again on March 21st, when he faces Shannon Gugerty. Clay sat down with CagePotato to discuss training with Greg Jackson, why he’s living in an RV in the desert, and much more.

Clay we’re going to jump right in to the most controversial topic that everyone wants to hear about with you. There was a big stink made last year when you were not included in the UFC 2009 Undisputed video game. With the new 2010 version coming out soon, fans want to know if they will be able to play as either you, your hair, or both in the game.

Oh yeah, we’re in the 2010 UFC game. We’re definitely in it, we’ve got all our sponsors and stuff in it and believe it or not (laughs) THQ actually contacted us this time. We didn’t have to reach out to them like we did for the 2009 game where they dropped the ball. That time around they were very, what’s the word, unprofessional in the way they went about it.

They didn’t contact us for eight or nine months. My management team and I sent emails, we called it seemed like every other week for eight or nine months. It’s water under the bridge now but they went about that kind of shadily. Once they started getting negative feedback from fans, who were sending e-mails to the THQ website, is when they started feeling really bad. I met the President of THQ at one of the fights. I think it was the one in Montreal one with Anderson Silva and Thales Leites. He came up to me and was very apologetic. I was like, Hey man, don’t apologize. The damage is done, it’s on you guys now. Make it right.

It was one of those things. It’s every kid’s dream to be in a video game, especially when you don’t expect it, you know what I mean? Anyway, it’s no big thing. We’re past it. I think this next one is going to have some real good improvements in it so it will probably be that much bigger and better.

There was a big outcry when that happened. Dana White seemed pissed about you not being in the 2009 game as well.

Oh, Dana was all fired up. He didn’t even know about it at first. I was out doing an appearance with Xyience at the time in California and some of my buddies were texting me like, ‘Hey man, we just got the roster for the game and we didn’t see you in it.’ So I texted Dana and was like, ‘Hey man, I’m not sure if you know but I guess the official roster came out and we weren’t on it.’ So he texted back, ‘What the?’ He was like, ‘I’m in a meeting, I’ll call you right back.’

So he called me twenty minutes later when he was done and he told me after we spoke, let me call you right back because I’m calling THQ right now. After he made the necessary calls, THQ called right away. It was like shit went downhill after the big guy got on the line. It was pretty funny, man. Getting the calls from THQ saying, we can’t do anything now but we’d like to make you a downloadable character. Obviously they were just trying to say that to soften the blow. Things were already being packaged. It’s over and done with.

It’s been now about three and a half years since you debuted in the UFC and it’s been an uninterrupted run in the organization. You’re officially a UFC veteran, you’re officially a UFC fan favorite. As such, you’ve made it further than probably 99.9% of MMA fighters ever will. When you were coming up in the Chicago area the UFC didn’t even have a lightweight division and now you’re on TV and in video games. Most would look at your situation and assume that you’ve got to be pretty satisfied with your career, right?

Well you definitely set me up for that one, Elias, because I’m very dissatisfied with my performances. 5-5 is nothing to be, for me, I might as well have a losing record. Yeah people say that I should have won a lot of the decisions that I lost but it’s up to me to not leave it up to the judges. Yeah I fought some bigger fights and stuff like that, main events, but to me I would have rather fought some of those split decision losses on the undercard. People are like, oh it could have gone either way. Well, it didn’t go either way. I let it go to the judges. I’m never satisfied. I’ve turned a corner in my training. I’m turning over a new leaf and putting in the extra time and I really think that’s going to make a difference in my fights in these coming years, hopefully in the UFC.

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These three and a half years it’s been in the UFC…I remember walking out for my fight against Justin James and it seems like an hour ago. I remember everything about that day, about that fight. So 5-5 to me is nothing. Yes, I feel fortunate to be where I am from where I’ve come from but I’m more excited about where I’m going to go in this sport.

I think you know why we ask that question as well. A lot of fans seem to think of you as that guy that is always classy with your comments, always exciting and high energy in the ring, they support you win or lose. But regardless of how calm you are in interviews and despite you always showing a positive public face, you’ve always been about wanting to be the champion one day and no matter how nice of a guy you are, that’s your goal. After losing your last two fights, you’ve got another one coming up March 21st. Express how important it is to you to stay at the top of the division and finally break through to the title ranks.

This fight against Shannon Gugerty is a huge wake-up call, man. And I’ve got nothing against being on a prelim. To me, that’s just a huge wake up call. I’m fighting a relatively unknown UFC fighter but I know quite a bit about him. He’s nothing to look past. He’s fought some tough guys. Basically he and I are the same record in the UFC. He’s 2-2, I’m 5-5. In my eyes we are both 0-0. This is a make or break fight for me. Like you said, I’m 0-2…I haven’t won a fight in a year. It’s a very important fight for me. My back is up against the wall. Shannon is a buddy of mine, you know what I mean? I met him and we hung out a couple times but I’m going to come out guns blazing, man. It’s going to be ugly. I’m going to put him on his back and just pressure, pressure, the whole time. I’m going to punish him and make him feel bad about signing on that dotted line to fight me, you know?

You mentioned turning a corner in your training. Elaborate on that. What kinds of changes have you made in your training or approach?

Just getting back to basics and working with Greg Jackson. I’ve got a whole different camp to workout with. When I was out here before the Florian fight I was just getting my feet wet with new instruction and stuff like that. Working with so much depth. There is no ‘worst guy in the gym,’ out here. That guy that doesn’t have a big name yet, he’s as tough as the guys that have had the big fights out here. He’s pushing, he’s doing the same training. He’s been through the fire. I feel like I’ve been training with the best guys in the world at the best camp and I’ve got two of the best instructors, Winklejohn and Greg Jackson. We do a lot of instruction, a lot of technique and repetition and then we put it into live action too.

Just the fact that I’m not in and out of the gym, makes a difference. I’m not getting in my rounds and then leaving. We’re doing technique, I’m doing my rounds and then I’m sticking around after and doing more repetition and stuff like that. I’ve been re-motivated. I got outside my comfort zone by staying out here. Living out here, literally I just pulled up on an Indian Reservation and I’m living out here in my RV. I’ve completely dedicated myself to training.

Is it the old Winnebago (ed. note: scroll down for the last video in the list) or is it a new one?

I’ve got a new one with the earnings of my last fight. Instead of investing in a house that I’m never at because I travel so much, I bought a house on wheels. I’ve got this 40-foot RV, you’ve got to check it out man. This one holds water and everything. Remember last time the water was blowing out the one side and the latch was flying open while we were doing 65 on the highway?

Yeah but that one had a fucking eagle on the side of it, which was bad-ass. Does this one have an eagle on it?

That was the screaming eagle, man. This thing actually looks like Optimus Prime though man, when you get in front of it. It looks exactly like Optimus Prime.

Did you go out to New Mexico on your own, or did you bring some teammates and coaches with you? And by fight night, how long will you have spent out there with Jackson and Winklejohn’s crew?

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It will be 8 weeks. Actually, Ryan Jensen is sitting right next to me. I picked him up last night from the airport and he’ll be sticking around for about two weeks. For the last camp I had Danny Gilbert out here. I had the Beebe brothers, Chase and Carson Beebe. We’ll get more of my teammates like Jon Murphy out here. It’s been good. A lot of support from back home. A lot of guys want to come out and check it out.

What is it that makes Jackson and Winklejohn’s camp so special? Most writers talk about Jackson even though Winklejohn coached him, and Jackson himself is kind of an interesting figure because in a way he just seems like this young guy that hasn’t fought MMA, not wrestled in an organized fashion or anything, yet he has a ton of success turning out great fighters. Is it that technical focus you talked about, is it how many good guys are in the room? What is special about Jackson’s to you?

You will hear from Greg’s mouth, Winklejohn is his mentor. They break it down so simply. It’s a science for Greg. He’s not trying to change me as a fighter. He knows what I’m built from. He told me, “Clay, you’re one of the best and we’re going to make you better.” He’s like a surgeon; he just wants to fine-tune some things. He knows what I’m good at and he knows what I need to do to improve, to win. He’s not trying to re-invent the wheel. I’m totally behind him and Winklejohn, completely.

You say you just pulled up onto the Indian Reservation that you’re staying on. What is your day-to-day life out there right now in the desert?

Lightweights train at about 10:30 in the morning. Then I go and do my strength and conditioning at Cary Tekin. Me and Jon Jones, we knock around together. We train together and push each other to go balls out to the point where there is no first gear. You go full throttle the whole time. I work with Winklejohn after that. They are all within 3-4 miles of each other. Then I just come back and chill at the RV. Take a nap, watch some TV and get ready for the next training session, hop in bed early every night. On weekends Coach will sometimes take us up to the mountains. Like this past weekend we went up to the Foothills, up 7,000 feet or something like that. We did a nice jog and then we did sprints. It’s all very relaxing, I recover after practice and go out and train another day.

You often take time to travel the country after your fights. Fast forward to after your fight on March 21st, I imagine you are not driving in the RV up to Colorado, so you take the flight back to New Mexico, what do you do? Do you take the RV straight back home or are you going to travel more, get some work in?

As a matter of fact, Colorado is straight north of us here in New Mexico so I’m actually going to take the RV up to the fight with a couple of teammates. Probably Leonard [Garcia] and Cowboy [Donald Cerrone], Aaron Riley, Cub Swanson, been training with him. So we’re going to drive up there and then hopefully after my victory, head back here for a couple of days and then I’m going to go do some fishing in Mexico. There’s a real nice bass lake I was just at, one of the hottest bass lakes in the world. I was out there two weeks before this camp. So yeah, just take a little bit of time and then fight again. I want to get out there again in early summer time. Right back out here, man. Nose to the grindstone.

Obviously, the UFC provides you with flights to your fight. What are you going to do instead, invoice them for the gas you use on the RV? Not many guys drive to their own fights in the UFC, no matter how close they are.

(Laughs) Yeah, they offered it and what I did was just offered my tickets to another corner man. My brother is coming out, obviously, Winklejohn or Greg or whoever needs it. So that’s another reason I did it, to free up a flight and I’ve got a big hotel room on wheels. I’ll be in the parking lot of the hotel we’re staying at.

Wait, you’re not going to use the hotel room they provide for you?

Whoever wants it can have it. I’m going to stay in the RV.

You’re staying in the RV even when you get out there, all fight week?

Oh yeah.

Is it just because it has become part of your routine and you want to keep it that way?

I’m just comfortable with it. It’s got more to offer than a hotel room does.