The Brazilian jiu-jitsu savant was in attendance for UFC 205 and was expected to fight the winner of the 170-pound title bout between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson. Those plans, however, were thrown into disarray after the UFC ended up with its first majority draw in a title bout since Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard were forced to run things back in 2011.
"For me, I will be very honest to you, (my manager) Eduardo (Alonso) was more ahead -- he realized it was a very bad thing for us," Maia admitted Monday on The MMA Hour. "But for me, it was okay. For me it was like ... the fight was okay, it was good. The fourth round was really good. But the first, second, third, and the last round, for me, it was like normal, it was nothing special.
"So I said, ‘okay, but the fight was not that great, I don't think they will do the rematch.' And then Eduardo said, ‘no, there is a chance they can try to do it, because it was a draw.' And he was right."
The unlikely outcome has now thrust Maia into the most uncomfortable sort of limbo.
Initially, UFC president Dana White stated at UFC 205's post-fight press conference that the UFC would likely rebook Woodley and Thompson again to settle things for good, and that Maia, who is the supposed next in line, would likely get his choice between waiting on the sidelines for the next available title shot or fighting again in the interim.
On Monday, Maia said that he spoke to White briefly after UFC 205 in the halls of Madison Square Garden and that White told him the same thing, effectively to not worry and that no one within the promotion would forget about him. But things changed later in the week, as Maia revealed on Friday that the UFC had already offered him a fight against former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.
"I don't understand what is happening, because Dana said right after the fight that I was next, I could wait if they do the rematch with Woodley and ‘Wonderboy,'" Maia said. "Sit and wait, or get another fight. So, I don't understand what's happening. I believe in Dana's words. Also, ‘Cowboy' (Cerrone) says he wants to fight me. So first they need to do the rematch. Let's see if they will do the rematch or not.
"If they really want to do the rematch, okay, we can think about another fight. But if I would fight again, it would be great to fight on the same card as ‘Wonderboy' and Woodley, because maybe somebody gets hurt, I can jump in. Or even if nobody gets hurt, we are in the same cycle."
Not surprisingly, Maia admitted that it was hard for him not to be frustrated by an outcome that was essentially his worst-case scenario at UFC 205. Already the elder statesman of the welterweight division, the 39-year-old Brazilian contender knows that his time left in this sport is limited, and his current run may be one of the last chances to capture a UFC belt in his career. So while his options for now look bleak, Maia isn't willing to commit to anything until he sees how the rest of the chips in the division fall.
"Let's see. Let's see what's going to happen," Maia said. "But the thing is, I know I'm right there, like Dana said. Tyron, he got his chance after two wins. Robbie got his chance after three wins. Nick (Diaz) got his chance after a loss. So, you know, what else can I do? All of my victories were against ranked guys except one. The last couple fights, I submitted really tough opponents. I'm here and I'm not asking for the title. I'm asking for a title shot.
"I'm asking for a chance. That's it. And you know what makes me angry sometimes is, right now I know I can win against everyone in my weight division. Right now, I really trust that I can win, even against Wonderboy, Woodley, or any other guy. You don't know how long you're going to last with this confidence and this ability and this physical conditioning, but right now, I feel that if I would fight this Saturday, I would be the champ."
With a six-fight win streak in tow, punctuated by a trio of sensational rear-naked choke finishes over Carlos Condit, Matt Brown and Neil Magny, Maia is currently riding the strongest wave of momentum in his UFC career. So it is understandable that he expressed exasperation at the idea of having to wait for an opportunity that he believes he already deserves.
As for the drama surrounding Woodley-Thompson, Maia said he saw Woodley after the fight and told the reigning UFC welterweight champion that he believed Woodley should have gotten the nod from the judges. Maia said he gave rounds one, three, and four to Woodley on his personal scorecard, with a potential 10-8 round in play for round four.
But that notwithstanding, Maia also came away from his experience in New York with a confidence and belief that he could defeat both title challengers.
"I saw weaknesses in both," Maia said. "... I saw one big problem with Wonderboy and one big problem with Tyron that I can capitalize on.
"It doesn't matter where. It doesn't matter where, I just want to be the next," Maia added. "I know I deserve it. I know it's a tough spot. I know you can make an argument for me or for Thompson. I hope, I hope I will (get the) fight."