Rory MacDonald was close to a shot at the UFC title before a loss to Robbie Lawler. The rising Canadian will return to the Octagon on Feb. 22 at UFC 170, but Demian Maia wants to ruin his plans one more time.
Maia suffered his only loss in the welterweight division against Jake Shields last October in Barueri, Brazil, and he knows that a win against the Tri-Star Gym talent will put him back in the title picture.
"He’s one of the toughest fighters in this division, and he was a top 3 before his last fight," Maia told MMAFighting.com. "He’s also coming off a loss so this is an important fight for both of us."
Before the recent loss, MacDonald defeated the likes of B.J. Penn, Jake Ellenberger, Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle, so the Brazilian knows what a win over him means for his plans in the UFC.
Maia is confident that his experience and talent on the ground could be too much for the Canadian.
"He has a good jiu-jitsu," he said. "That’s not his strongest weapon, but he’s the typical modern fighter. He knows how to do everything. He has a good jiu-jitsu and muay Thai, and good wrestling. He’s the new generation.
"He’s an excellent athlete. He has many things to prove and I’m happy to fight him. I know that a win over him brings great rewards. I’m fighting for a long time, not only in MMA but also jiu-jitsu, so I expect that my experience will make the difference in this fight."
To return to the win column, Maia counts on his manager Eduardo Alonso to plan the perfect training camp for UFC 170. In fact, Alonso is more than a manager for the grappling wizard.
"Eduardo is basically our head coach," he said. "He’s also our manager, but I count on him to organize my whole camp. He’s a smart guy. Despite the fact that he only trained martial arts as an amateur, never competing professionally, he understands the fight game better than a lot of high level athletes."
Alonso started his career in the MMA world as a journalist, but quickly became a manager in Curitiba. Now, he’s also the head coach of UFC fighters Demian Maia and Daniel Sarafian, and many other professional athletes.
"I started working with him after my last fight at 185," Maia said. "I saw his work with ‘Shogun’ (Rua), and my first fight with him was in my welterweight debut. I went 3-0 at 170 before my loss to Jake Shields, but I’m always at my best in my fights."
A couple months after the split decision loss to Shields in Brazil, Maia prefers to remember the fight for the things he needs to learn than the close loss.
"A lot of people underestimate Jake Shields, but his results speak for themselves," he said. "He’s tough to beat. He used his strategy, played more defensively. This fight taught me a lot. I was too emotional to do a great fight for my fans in my home town and rushed things, and I was frustrated when he defended some positions."
Maia believes the UFC should change some rules in the future, and one of them is show the scorecards to the public and fighters after every rounds. It may never happen, so he knows he needs to decisively beat his opponents.
"A loss is horrible, and it’s even worse in the UFC," he said. "I lost many positions in the rankings, maybe I would fight for the title with a win but I’m not anymore. But I’ve learned a lot of things that will be useful if I want to be the champion one day."