For the last decade an unassuming figure out of Sao Paulo, Brazil has been imposing his will on some of the most dangerous men on the planet. Not in a violent, terrifying way, but in an artistic, beautiful way that so heavily contrasts the connotations of the sport he participates in. Nothing really stands out about him when Bruce Buffer introduces him inside the octagon – 6’ 1, 170 lbs., 25 wins and 6 losses. He always appears in good shape, but I would describe his body type as a middle-aged dad who jogs a lot, not a person who beats people up for a living.
Demian Maia earned a decision win against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 211 on Saturday. The win marked Maia’s seventh in a row, which is quite impressive in a sport where “shit happens” is a popular and legitimate excuse. He probably earned a welterweight title shot with his fourth or fifth consecutive win, but “earn” is a funny word in the UFC these days. Money fights are on the rise and climbing the ranks seems to be on the way out. Fighters are earning title shots with their mouths and name recognition rather than their accomplishments. However, it doesn’t seem to affect Maia. After his victory at UFC 211 when discussing getting passed up for championship fights and talking trash to sell himself he said, “I’d rather die than change my principles.” So for Maia, he’ll stick to being a human backpack inside the cage and not worry about the popularity contests outside of it.
That suits him just fine if you ask me. Maia isn’t the type to change his ways. He can get his takedown attempts stuffed 20 times in a row, but you better believe he’ll be right back at it for a 21st attempt. All of his opponents know exactly what he is going to try to do, but somehow 25 of his 31 opponents haven’t been able to do a damn thing to stop it. Maia doesn’t have a legitimate KO or TKO win in his 25 UFC fights. They’ve all come by submission or decision. He’s on one trick pony of sorts except his one trick is a million tricks. He’s going to get you to the ground and win; he just lets you decide whether it’s a slow death or a quick one.
If Demian Maia retired today he would be an all time great martial artist. He has 6 world titles in jiu jitsu. He has the second most wins in the UFC with 19 and the second most submissions with 9. He’s taken two of the most brutally violent people in MMA, Carlos Condit and Matt Brown, and embarrassed them. He’s fought killers ten years his junior, Gunnar Nelson and Neil Magny, and completely outclassed them. Demian Maia is magic inside the octagon. He finds a way to turn a fistfight into a jiu jitsu match… and Demian Maia doesn’t lose a jiu jitsu match.
So does Demian Maia belong on the Mt. Rushmore of MMA? Maybe not. Does he deserve a title shot? Absolutely. Does he deserve a spot in the UFC hall of fame and recognition as a legendary athlete? You bet. Maia has been ignored for far too long. It’s time we has an MMA community and we as a sports community give him the respect he deserves. This man is a legend walking amongst us. He is an artist who is painting beautiful strokes on a canvas inside a cage. Let’s not let his mastery go unnoticed any longer.