In today’s UFC landscape, it’s not uncommon to see a champion attempt to land a fight with a marquee name rather than a legitimate No. 1-contender. It’s why Demian Maia, a man who has won seven straight fights at 170 pounds, still may not receive the next welterweight title shot despite UFC President Dana White promising him it after his victory over Jorge Masvidal this past weekend (May 13, 2017) at UFC 211.
Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley commented on the potential bout with the humble and soft spoken Maia after UFC 211, but he recently told ESPN that Maia may have to take a ‘backseat’, as fights with former longtime champion Georges St. Pierre and former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz are ‘real’ possibilities:
“I think those fights are way more real than you guys realize,” Woodley said. “I was teasing everyone for several weeks, but that wasn’t for giggles. Those are realistic options that could make Demian Maia take a backseat for a little bit.”
St. Pierre hasn’t competed since winning a highly controversial decision over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in 2013, while Diaz hasn’t competed since dropping a decision (later changed to a no-contest) to Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in Jan. 2015, although both men are still massive stars in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Woodley continued on, saying that he’s heard there’s interest from Diaz. If the money is right, “The Chosen One” feels as if the ‘fight will happen’:
“The interest is there,” said Woodley, on what he’s heard from Diaz’s associates. “I don’t know if it was in the past. I don’t think he had interest to fight anyone. We all know he’s not scared, but he didn’t think he was being compensated for what he thought he was worth.
“It’s a different game now. People are making real money. I think if it’s a good card that makes sense, that fight will happen.”
While Maia may not present the most lucrative option for Woodley, he could present a legitimate test, as he represents one of the very best submission artists in MMA history. Woodley even called him a ‘specialist’, similar to the champion’s previous opponent, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, an elite level striker who Woodley didn’t enjoy training for:
“He is one of the last specialists in the UFC,” Woodley said. “He and Stephen [Wonderboy] Thompson are two of the last specialists in the sport and they just so happen to be in my weight class, right near the top. Training for Wonderboy’s karate, two times in a row — they were the most annoying camps of my life. He’s so good at what he does.
“I was a little frustrated with people at the FOX studios this weekend. They were laughing and jumping on my back like Maia does in fights — when I fight these specialists, I can’t be free in camp. I can’t be free in a fight. I can’t fight the way I normally would against a traditional, freestyle fighter. Now, I might have to go back to a similar training camp.”
Should Maia be leapfrogged once again, or is it time that the Brazilian receives his well-deserved title shot?