January 05, 2010

Gray Maynard did not want to begin on The Ultimate Fighter.

For an aspiring UFC fighter, there are two typical routes to make it into the promotion. The first is to battle your way through the local, independent shows, and the second is to try out for Spike TV's reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.

Maynard chose the latter, and even though he began his UFC career with a blistering 7-0 record, Maynard does not believe he took the best possible path.

"The TV show was there so I tried out," Maynard said. "Was I prepared to go into it? I don't think so, but it was a chance. I had only been training for a year."

Maynard had a professional record of just 1-0 with one no-contest prior to entering the TUF house. With the high amount of pressure and visibility attached to the program, Maynard believes the first option is much safer.

"I would try to get 10 small shows first," said the former Michigan State wrestling star. "Someone should really be ready before they go on The Ultimate Fighter. If you do well, it will really pay off, but if you don't, people will say 'this guy sucks'."

Maynard suffered his only mixed martial arts defeat on TUF to Nate Diaz (matches on the television show are considered exhibitions). Diaz won by submission with a guillotine choke in the second round.

Now the man with the nickname of "The Bully" gets a chance to avenge the defeat Sunday night at UFC Fight Night 20 in Fairfax, Va.

"Any chance you get to get a guy you lost to is always great," Maynard said. "I jumped on it."

Even with the result of the first bout, the oddsmakers have Maynard listed as a 1-to-3 favorite.

"You know Nate Diaz is a tough guy," Maynard said, while analyzing his opponent's strengths. "He's a dangerous guy. He's got good boxing, and he's got good jiu-jitsu."

Should Maynard prove the experts correct and defeat Diaz, he would likely be the next contender for lightweight champion B.J. Penn. Coincidentally, Penn was Maynard's coach on TUF. However, Maynard was not altogether pleased with the instruction he received.

"As a coach, you have to help the guys keep their goals, and I think he was just 'there'," Maynard said. "He was like 'I just want to go home.' I don't really think we had the best training."

If they meet in the Octagon, the matchup would mark the first time a coach ever fought one of his own students. Despite the looming possibility of a pay-per-view main event in the middle of 2010, Maynard is not going to overlook Diaz.

"I gotta get past Nate first," Maynard said, when asked about a potential fight with Penn. "I keep that out of my mind. Talk to me on Jan. 12 if I get past Nate."

Nonetheless, the history between Penn and Maynard dates back even further than TUF. The two fighters worked out together in 2004. While preparing for a fight with Rodrigo Gracie, Penn flew Maynard out to Hawaii to help train.

"After trying out for the Olympics, I went to a jiu-jitsu school in Las Vegas with a couple of guys from Hilo," Maynard said. "Penn called me up. I didn't know who he was, but I went there and trained with him for about three weeks. The training was much better in Hilo than TUF. "

Fighting guys he has had a close relationship with is nothing new to Maynard, but still, it's not something he is very comfortable with.

"You're hanging out with the guy you're going to scrap with," said Maynard, who had a 2-1 record against the housemates on the fifth season of TUF . "It's a change of pace. It adds to the drama. It's a reality show, but it's anything but. That's not real."

What definitely is real for Maynard is the upcoming fight with Diaz. The main event match is set to air Monday night (9 p.m. ET, Spike TV).

In order to keep the Penn fight alive and stay undefeated, Maynard will have to defeat the only man to beat him. Regardless, Maynard is very confident going into the cage against Diaz.

"I know it's going to be a good fight, and I'm going to win."

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