The UFC welterweight title will be on the line in New York on Nov. 12 between champion Tyron Woodley and rising star Stephen Thompson. Now that the fight is official, welterweight contender Demian Maia can make plans for the future.
Maia was hoping to get the next shot after making quick work of Carlos Condit at UFC on FOX 21 in August, but knew that "Wonderboy" was more than likely to be ahead of him in the title running. And even though Woodley-Thompson is now official for UFC 205, Maia will continue to train just in case something happens to the challenger.
"A title shot is a unique opportunity you don’t turn down," Maia’s manager Eduardo Alonso told MMA Fighting. "But if any injury happens to ‘Wonderboy’ and we get a call, unless Demian is injured, we will take the opportunity because you never know what tomorrow will bring. We see what happened to ‘Jacare’ [Souza], for an example, who unfortunately got injured and couldn’t get his chance. [Michael] Bisping got the chance and became champion, and ‘Jacare’ is still going after his opportunity. You never know what will happen tomorrow. An opportunity like this, you say yes and do your best."
Maia’s team is confident that no one deserves the next shot more than him, but deserving something is not actually a guarantee that you will get it in the UFC.
"The idea now is to face the winner of this fight," Alonso said. "Demian deserved a title shot already, and it’s pretty obvious after this fight that he’s the next in line. I don’t see anyone deserving it more than him. We know that deserving is something relative in the sport today, but we have to find a balance between spectacle and sport. You have to aim for long term credibility as any other sports league, and you need to use meritocracy as one of your criteria.
"You don’t change the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals or the Champions League final simply because one team is more popular or less popular. You set objective criteria. After ‘Wonderboy’ vs. Tyron Woodley, Demian is the next in line no matter what happens in future fights. I believe he will have this opportunity. He deserves it."
With Woodley vs. Thompson scheduled for Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden, Maia expects to fight for the UFC belt early next year.
"In a perfect world, this title fight could be in January, February, any time works for us," Alonso said. "Demian is in fight rhythm. The most important now is to get the title shot. After the fight is set, we don’t have any problem waiting until March or April, too."
Maia and Thompson have done an impressive job in the welterweight division. The Brazilian currently rides a six-fight winning streak with three submissions, while "Wonderboy" stopped four opponents in his last seven bouts.
"You can’t ignore what ‘Wonderboy’ did to deserve it, especially his last couple of wins over [Johnny] Hendricks and Rory MacDonald," Alonso said. "When ‘Wonderboy’ beat Rory, that motivated us to take the fight against Condit because we already imagined he would be close to a title shot.
"We also think Demian deserves it, especially because ‘Wonderboy’s’ seven-fight winning streak was impressive because of his last two wins. In Demian’s winning streak, he beat five top 15 opponents in impressive fashion. Maybe he didn’t have someone as popular as Hendricks and Rory aside from Condit, but he has a pretty consistent run against high-level opponents."
The jiu-jitsu ace already ruled out the idea of facing Georges St-Pierre before getting his chance at the UFC belt, and his manager explains why it wouldn’t make sense for them to take the fight right now.
"Everybody knows that Demian’s dream is to become UFC champion. Not everything in life is about money, and Demian wants this title fight over anything," Alonso said. "Right now we don’t think about anything besides that. That’s out plan A and plan B.
"Fighting someone like GSP would obviously be an important episode in his career. We have the utmost admiration for him as an athlete, it would be an historic fight, but it would be more interesting with Demian as the champion. Fighting an athlete like GSP, who retired without losing his belt, and you don’t have the opportunity to become the champion with a win over him, I don’t think it’d be the best. Right now we don’t think about it, but we would have to sit down and take a look if a real offer is made to evaluate it, but it would be more fair and interesting to get this fight as champion."