Clay Guida's excitement is infectious.
Heading into his 45th career fight against Tatsuya Kawajiri at UFC Fight Night 39 in Abu Dhabi April 11, Guida remains as enthusiastic and energetic as ever. Despite countless wars inside the UFC Octagon and hundreds of tiresome, energy-sapping training sessions under his belt, Guida is amped and ready to roll.
"Fighting guys with names like Kawajiri fires me up and gets me excited to get in there and compete," Guida told Bleacher Report. "If you can't get up for this fight, you don't have a pulse."
Guida rose to fame in the UFC's lightweight division from 2006 to 2008, a seven-fight stint that put him on the map for his rock 'em, sock 'em, throw-until-somebody-falls fighting style.
His appearance was positively primal, and his approach to the fight game was no more civilized. When Clay Guida entered the Octagon, his opponent was walking away with a few battle scars, win or lose.
Since that time, however, Guida has dropped to featherweight, and his two fights in this lighter weight class have been met with criticism.
First, "The Carpenter" faced Hatsu Hioki, a lanky featherweight with "rubber-band flexibility," as Guida put it. After narrowly edging Hioki via decision, Guida then faced Team Alpha Male's Chad Mendes, a stocky power puncher with a wrestling game as refined and polished as anybody's inside the division.
In that fight, Guida suffered his first knockout loss, but he feels that even against a powerhouse such as Mendes, he showed that he can eat a bomb and keep ticking.
"You realize that you're human, that everyone's got a 'spot,'" Guida said of the defeat. "Yeah, it [the stoppage] might have been a little early. We were right back up and running around the cage, ready to go in no time."
Now facing another physically strong opponent in Kawajiri, Guida is excited to put on a show, to channel "The Carpenter" of past days. He understands that, at 32 years old with over 40 fights on his resume, he is not a young man anymore, but he feels ready for combat and ready for another run at UFC gold.
"We got a lot more wear to put on these tires, man," Guida said. "I'm 32, but this sport's still so premature. I believe it's a sport where people can fight for 10, 15, 20 years."
Guida noted that guys like former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Randy Couture fought well into their 40s, and, while he does not see himself competing quite that long, he sees plenty of battles and accomplishments to be seized in his future.
"The key is having passion for the sport and just having fun. When you lose that is when you've been in too long," Guida said. "Just being along for the ride is just awesome. It's an addiction, being a part of this sport."
Beyond his fight with Kawajiri Friday in Abu Dhabi, Guida is leaving the door wide open for a return to his former weight class of 155 pounds.
He has already defeated the current lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, and he feels he could do the same again after stringing together a few victories.
"Anthony Pettis is a great champion, and I don't know what takes people so long to figure out how to beat him," Guida said. "My fight wasn't anything special against him. I stuck to what I know...Who knows, maybe I'll go back up to lightweight and show them what a double-leg takedown is. Having a win like that is always cool to have on your belt, and there should be many more in my future."
For now, The Carpenter enters battle mode once more, hoping to channel the electric, can't-miss fighter of past days against Kawajiri April 11 at UFC Fight Night 39.
Understanding that no man is safe on the UFC's roster, he strives to do only what he knows best: fighting hard, fighting smart and emerging with the knowledge that he left everything in the cage on fight night.
"There's no job security, man," Guida said. "You just gotta go out there and fight your heart out every time and win or lose have a smile on your face."
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