After his January bout with Robbie Lawler at UFC 195, Carlos Condit outright suggested he could be done in mixed martial arts. There were a couple of scenarios that could bring him back, he noted at the time. He'd take a rematch with Lawler, since he lost the first bout via close split decision. Eventually, he'd say a fight with the Nick Diaz, once he was off suspension, was also of interest.
Eventually, though, neither of those bouts materialized, yet Condit chose to return, taking a fight with top contender and elite jiu-jitsu black belt Demian Maia for late August.
On Monday on The MMA Hour, Condit explained his reasoning for the slow drift back to more regular competition.
"A number of reasons. First and foremost, I still got a little bit of time in the sport, I think. Still got some fights in me," he confessed. "I love it. I love what I do. This is a passion for me. Also, this is how I make a living. This is my job. I got bills to pay, I have kids to feed."
Ultimately, Condit revealed, he knew he wasn't getting precisely what he wanted, but he wasn't ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. More importantly, he realized the path to the title through Maia is a tough, but relatively short one.
"I was on the fence until...it could've gone either way," he noted. "If an opportunity presented itself and it sounded like it was something enticing, I think I had decided 'Ok, I'll take it.' The fight with [Demian] Maia, it's a tough fight. He's a tough match-up for anybody, but that being said, it gets me back into title contention. I beat Demian Maia, I'm the no. 1 contender, I feel. And I'm back in position to get the belt around my waist again.
"I like the idea of fighting him because he is one of the best in the world. He's got a tricky style. It's, without a doubt, a challenge. It's going to be a tough puzzle to solve, but I like challenging myself. That's why I do this. One of the reasons to pit my skills and my abilities against other world-class fighters. Demian Maia is, without a doubt, a world-class fighter."
Originally, Condit and Maia were set to face off at UFC 202, but the bout was moved back a week. It's now the headliner for UFC on FOX 21. For a multitude of reasons, Condit found this change pleasing and more in keeping with his interests.
"I like the fact that with this new date it'll be a five-round fight, main event. I feel like this fight should be a main event. 202 was a huge card, but we weren't even co-main. We were third from the top. I didn't necessarily like that.
"Then I had a week longer to train," he continued. "This fight was not super short notice, but it's fairly short notice. I had to get in camp and get to work right away. This gave me an extra week to work."
Condit isn't unaware the bout being moved from three to five rounds carries risk. "It could be five more rounds of Demian Maia on my back, dominating me in a jiu-jitsu position. Could be," he confessed. On the other, Condit noted, he "can end this fight quickly and violently". If anything, a fight going long provides him more opportunity to find Maia's off switch.
The biggest concern for Condit is Maia's ability, but there is some worry about the Brazilian's fighting style. As a welterweight, Maia has gone back to his roots, using almost exclusively positional control from jiu-jitsu to win. It's been a successful strategy, Condit admitted, but it's almost come at a cost.
"Here's the thing, though. He's underrated. Because he's a phenomenal fighter, he should possibly, potentially be a no. 1 contender, but the thing is, his style's not fan friendly. He doesn't fight. He goes in there and he grapples," he said. "There's been a few fights where he's gone against Chris Weidman and he threw down a little bit then.
"But in his recent fights, he just plays it super safe. I was cageside when he fought Gunnar Nelson and he had Gunnar Nelson beat. Gunnar was up against the fence, he was defeated. Demian Maia had the opportunity, hey, let's finish this out. Let's throw some strikes. His strikes are very decent. He's a good striker and yet, boom, shot in. Shot in on him, laid on him, he could've at that point, that opportunity kinda made a statement like, 'hey, I'm here. I'm not always the boring fighter', but he plays it safe and he's been playing it safe. That's why he's not where he should be with regard to rankings or respect among welterweights."
To be clear, Condit admitted he respects "the hell out of him. I respect everybody I compete against." Speaking as a fan, however, "it's not an entertaining style. My goal is to make this dude fight. I'm going to make this an exciting fight."
Condit acknowledged his plan to return against Maia could backfire. What if he ends up with Maia on his back for five rounds and loses a clear and lackluster decision? Will he choice to return have been worth it? "I hope will make sure that that's not the case," he lamented.
For now, though, he's not thinking that way. He is confident in his ability and decision to face Maia, which will hopefully put him on a path back to the title. Then again, he also isn't sure he'll continue after the fight.
Condit's taking his approach back to the Octagon is a cautious one. He's aware of the risks, what they entail, what he wants and where he'd like to be. He's all in for the next fight, but there's no telling beyond that.
"Any of these fights could be our last fight," he said. "This is dangerous. You saw Cyborg with that crazy head injury. Any of these fights could be our last, man. This is a dangerous sport. I've been at this a long time. It is a possibility. Anything's possible. I don't think it'll be my last fight, but s--t, who knows?"