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Gray Maynard inks new deal, looking for February or March return

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

For those people wondering why Gray Maynard hasn’t used his wrestling more, you should have seen him at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Maynard, dawning a singlet during the Grapple at the Garden event, competed against WSOF’s Ozzy Dugulubgov, and scored a decision victory (14-3). A few weeks earlier in Albany, New York, Maynard competed in a three three-minute match with Dennis Bermudez. The old Michigan State looked pretty good, too.

Maynard is wrestling to stay busy (and rooted to the mats), as he gets ready for his next chapter in the UFC. That’s because Maynard, who last fought at UFC Fight Night 47 in August, has signed a new contract with the UFC.

For a guy who has been knocked out four of his last five fights, that prospect was no given. Especially after his last one against the late replacement Ross Pearson in Bangor, Maine, when Maynard succumbed to a barrage of punches in the second round. Many wondered if the 35-year old "Bully"-- at one-time the top contender in the UFC’s lightweight division -- would consider walking away from the fight game.

He might have. But after getting checked out, he is going to fight on.

"I just got a contract done," he told MMA Fighting during the Grapple at the Garden. "I talked to Dana and stuff like that. He wanted me to go do all the MRIs and just kind of get checked out from head to toe. He told me, hey man, you’ve got a life after the sport. You’ve got a daughter. He’s cool. He knows my daughter, he knows my girl [Jess], and he just wanted to make sure I got looked at head to toe and he said, if you’re clear, let’s talk. So we talked and I got a new deal."

In September, after stints training/living in Santa Cruz and Phoenix, Arizona, Maynard and his family moved back to Las Vegas, and he rejoined his original team at Xtreme Couture.

"They’ve really changed it up," he said. "I came back, and I didn’t know how it would be. But it’s back to the team that it started out to be. It’s cool. Such good coaches over there. Everybody’s together and they’re on it, and I’m pumped to be back."

He says he’s eying a February or March return to the Octagon, and had been doing these wrestling competitions as a way to make the grunt work fun.

"We’re kind of in that stage where we just moved back home," he said. 
"We’re trying to get everything organized. It’s cool that these things popped up, because I can still keep competing and still keep training, and it keeps me honest. I’m like, ‘yeah, I better get in the room a little bit.’ I try to stay in the room. This is the toughest sport to train for, and everybody knows that. Wrestling day is always the most dreaded day of any gym."

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