For any fighter who’s competed as long as Demian Maia has, retirement talk is going to come up and the 40-year-old welterweight can see the end on the horizon.
Maia (25-8) makes his 28th Octagon appearance this Saturday at UFC Chile, which will move him into a tie for the third-most bouts in UFC history with Jeremy Stephens, trailing only Michael Bisping and Jim Miller.
He’s competed for championship belts in two divisions and holds dominant victories over the likes of Carlos Condit, Jon Fitch, and Chael Sonnen. And that’s not even mentioning his unimpeachable Brazilian jiu-jitsu exploits.
Saturday’s fight opposite Kamaru Usman (12-1) was booked on short notice and Maia told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that he’s looking forward to testing himself against the “Nigerian Nightmare” — who has yet to taste defeat in seven UFC outings — and that Saturday could mark the beginning of his final run in MMA.
“I’m okay, I’m happy. The UFC’s happy with everything,” Maia said, when asked if he was concerned about accepting the booking with limited time to prepare. “Everything is set up right now and for me, it’s a big challenge for sure, but I’m thinking that I want to fight this year, maybe next year finish these fights on my contract because I love to fight and I’m still performing well during training camps.
“But I don’t know if I will still fight after next year. So this could be my last contract with the UFC and after that I retire.”
According to Maia, he has signed a new deal with the UFC for four fights, starting with the Usman bout in Santiago, Chile.
Maia has been involved with combat sports in some form since he was four years old and while he remains passionate about fighting, there are other areas of his life that he is ready to dedicate more time to.
“Not because I don’t like or I don’t enjoy it, of course I love it, but I’ve been almost eleven years in this game in the UFC and it’s a lot of commitment, a lot of pressure, and also I want to have different projects that I like to do,” Maia said. “Change a little bit, do some changes, be able to be a little bit more with family and kids and give more time for them also.”
If Maia is headed towards retirement, he’s certainly not easing into it. While Usman currently holds the longest active UFC winning streak at 170 pounds, Maia is actually trending in the opposite direction. In his last two outings, he dropped unanimous decisions to Colby Covington and welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
Like Usman, Covington and Woodley are both strong wrestlers, which could be cause for concern if Maia is looking to end his losing skid. But as has been the case for most of his career, Maia wants nothing less than the best opponent he can get.
“I know these matchups, very good wrestlers, are tough for me, but it’s a challenge that I know I can overcome,” Maia said. “I beat them before, I fought tough wrestlers before and that was the guy to fight right now. That was the challenge and I think he, for me, is probably the biggest challenge right now in the top guys of the division, or one of the biggest.
“So let’s go, I’m here, I want to stop one day, I want to look back and see that I come and face the challenge and that will be perfect for me one day. Not just thinking about winning, losing, or don’t take a fight because you don’t want to risk your reputation, but I think it’s a fight that is a difficult fight, but you know is a good challenge. That’s what made me compete here and that’s what’s going to make me keep going in my life even after I retire, the challenges.”