Demian Maia freely accepts he faces the toughest challenge of his career this weekend when he squares up to arguably the best pound-for-pound figher in the world, current UFC Middleweight Champion and fellow Brazilian, Anderson Silva. But Silva is also all that stands between the five-times world jiu-jitsu champion and the dream he has trained 20 years to achieve - to be "the best fighter in the world". While he says he is honoured to fight Silva, Maia has no intention of letting his respect for his opponent overwhelm his desire to take his belt. "This is something I have been waiting all my life for," he said. Maia is considered by many in the fight business as the heir apparent to UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie's legacy.
He joined UFC in 2007, months after winning the Abu Dhabi Combat Club-conducted Submission Wrestling World Championship in New York and has quickly become one of the best submission fighters in the sports league. History suggests a win on Saturday would likely come using the same grappling skills which saw him claim five of his six UFC victories via submissions, including an impressive first round rear naked choke on Nate Quarry at UFC 91. After suffering his first career loss against Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 last August, when Maia was knocked out 21 seconds into the fight, he went away and concentrated on his striking game, returning in February to beat Dan Miller at UFC 109 in an impressive stand-up performance. But this Saturday's five-round championship bout is likely to become a chess game between one of the best strikers in the UFC and one of its most prolific submission fighters. And Maia knows it.
He has been working on his wrestling and take-downs, vital to get Silva down to the mats where he can work on submissions. "When I was further away from the fight I was working on my boxing during training, to get my legs moving well, but as the fight edged closer the focus returned to Brazilian jiu-jitsu because that is where my strength lies," he said. While fight fans will be on the edge of their seats for the headline bout, Maia's wife and family, back in Sao Paulo, will be keeping as far away from the action as possible. "My wife never comes to watch me fight, she gets too nervous, so do my family. They will only watch it on the television after they know the outcome," he said. firstname.lastname@example.org