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Gray Maynard Focused on Roger Huerta, Not Lightweight Title

Gray MaynardIf Gray Maynard wanted to, he could make a pretty good case that he deserves to be the No. 1 contender for the UFC lightweight title. After breaking into the UFC on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter and knocking himself out in a bizarre no contest on that season's Finale, Maynard has gone 5-0, and he's dominated all five opponents.

But as Maynard prepares to fight Roger Huerta on the September 16 Ultimate Fight Night card, he says he won't lobby for a shot at the lightweight championship, even if he beats Huerta. Instead, Maynard says in an interview with FanHouse that he's putting all his energy into fighting Huerta, and that as long as he keeps winning, he's sure a title shot will come.

Michael David Smith: What kind of fight are you expecting from Roger Huerta?
Gray Maynard: He's very quick paced. He has a lot of heart. It definitely won't be easy, but I'm prepared.

He hasn't fought in more than a year. Do you think he'll be rusty?
I'm preparing for the opposite: I'm looking at it as, he's been off for a long time, he's been training this whole time, that means he's going to be hungry and come in there and be an animal. That's who I'm preparing for.

What do you make of his long layoff? The reports are that he is more interested in acting and modeling than fighting?
Well, I guess he's got those options. I don't have those options, so I have to prepare to fight.

I've talked to several fighters who say that you're someone they wouldn't want to fight because your style makes you a difficult opponent. What do you think that means?
I've heard a couple people say that, and I guess it just means that every time I come out, I'm coming out to fight, that every time I come out I come out with new tools and new ways to win a fight, and that I can dictate the tempo of the fight. I'm the kind of fighter who can take my opponents down to the ground, or I can keep the fight standing, and if I do that I hit pretty hard.

If you beat Roger are you in line for a title shot next?
I don't know. I have to beat Huerta before I can even think about doing anything else. I don't look beyond this fight because I think it's going to be a good scrap, and as long as I keep winning, a title shot will come. I just have to win each fight as they give it to me.

This question was submitted on Twitter by Michael Comeau: Is it unfair that Diego Sanchez gets the next title fight with only two wins at lightweight, and that Kenny Florian got the last title shot with easier competition?
The UFC made the smart business choice in giving Diego the next shot. Diego has the name and his fight with Penn will draw a lot of fans, especially after that great fight he just had with Clay Guida. I'm horrible at predicting fights, but I do think B.J. against Diego is a good one.

You've dominated each of your last five fights, but since your first-round knockout of Joe Veres two years ago, you've won all four of your fights by decision. Do you think you need to have an exciting finish to a fight to make you more marketable and more attractive as a title contender?

I don't think you can set out to try for a big knockout or a great submission. If it happens it happens, but you just have to try to win the fight. I've fought some really good opponents, guys who are in the Top 10, and it's not going to happen that easily. I don't care if it's B.J. Penn or anyone, finishing a good opponent within three rounds is never easy. Even B.J., he didn't stop Kenny Florian until Round 4 and he didn't stop Sean Sherk until after Round 3. Finishing top guys within three rounds is hard to do. Fans ask me, "Why aren't you knocking guys out?" It's because guys are good. When you're fighting in the UFC, everyone you're fighting is good. It's not easy to knock someone out within three rounds.

How has your training been going for this fight?
I'm doing a lot of work at Xtreme Couture with Tyson Griffin, Martin Kampmann, Sam Stout and Mike Pyle. We've got a whole group of guys who have fights coming up. We also have a strength and conditioning trainer who puts us through some really hard stuff, and I jog a lot to get into shape.

Do you lift weights?
I hit the weights hard when I'm not in training camp, and then when I'm gearing up for a fight I want to ease off the weights and hit the cardio really hard.

I know you're close with a number of your training partners at Xtreme Couture. Is there anyone you wouldn't fight because they're friends?
I would try to avoid fighting a friend, but I don't want to act like I'm the boss. The UFC makes the decision, and I would hate to be like, "No, it's not going to happen." Because then I'm acting like I'm the boss, and I know I'm not the boss.

Are you watching a lot of tape of Huerta's past fights?
I do that at the beginning of camp. I watched his fights, looked for certain spots, and then geared up. I think you can do too much watching tape if you're doing it in your whole camp, but it's good to get started by looking at what he does.

How much do people ask you about that crazy no contest you had with Rob Emerson in 2007 at the Ultimate Fighter Finale, when you slammed Emerson, making him tap, but knocked yourself out in the process?
I still get it a lot. People are always coming up talking about it.

There was some controversy at the time about whether that was ruled correctly. Do you think it should have been a no contest?
I don't worry about it. That's the ruling that was made, and that's what I have to go with.

You seem like you're pretty much just happy to fight and not too worried about anything else.
I love doing what I'm doing. And I really appreciate the fan support. As the sport is growing we're getting more fans, and I'm planning to give them something to cheer for next week.

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