Sometimes, guys are just done.
That's a harsh reality in all walks of life, but it's particularly harsh in sports and harshest in combat sports.
You can only be punched in the dome so many times before your body decides to check out on you and you have to find another way to pay the bills.
Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 47, the world will find out just how close Gray Maynard is to that point. His back is against the wall in a way it's never been during his UFC tenure, and with a stout test in the form of Ross Pearson staring him down, there's a very good chance it could be the last night he makes the walk to the Octagon.
Maynard was a brute for essentially his whole term on the UFC roster, probably the best man in the promotion not to hold a title when he was in his prime. There was a time when no one could derail him, and in many ways, his success was the blueprint for wrestle-boxers who came after him.
The big difference between those pretenders and the man himself, particularly at 155, was Maynard's punching power. He had the capacity to behead a foe like no one else at lightweight, and combining that with his formidable wrestling chops made him all but unstoppable.
Unstoppable if you were anyone other than little Frankie Edgar, everyone's favorite undersized champion who just wouldn't let that big Bully take his title away. He stopped Maynard with punches at the end of 2011, giving Maynard his first career loss and sending him into something of a tailspin.
A bizarre win over Clay Guida was nothing to write home about, but the attention was back on Maynard for getting his bell rung by an upstart TJ Grant and being stopped again by notoriously light-fisted Nate Diaz soon after.
The former title contender had never looked worse, and there was reason to think he might simply have run his course at the top of the heap.
Maynard has spent most of 2014 on the sidelines, and with that Diaz loss the last memory to be had of him, there's little incentive to think anything different of Maynard going into Saturday.
As with many men before him, the correlation between age and output and what Maynard is being paid isn't in his favor anymore.
He'll likely make at least $45,000 to show up against Pearson, and if he's not durable enough to take the Brit's punches or brutish enough to throw him around, he's going to be a very expensive piece of cannon fodder in the eyes of UFC brass.
It's one thing to drop dollars on someone who'll be in contention and bring eyes to fights, but it's entirely another to drop them on a 35-year-old who's gone chinny and isn't fast enough or strong enough to hide the fact with wrestling.
The cost to the UFC combined with the potential for a diminishing skill set puts Maynard in a decidedly tough spot come Saturday. That's not to say he's done before he even straps on the gloves, but it is to say people should be prepared for the reality that this is not the same Maynard who dominated 155ers across the board for the first five years of his career.
All he can do at this point, though, is go out and leave it all in the cage.
Recent performances, a big salary (relatively speaking) and the likelihood that he's trending toward the end of his run all have his back planted firmly against the wall going in, but one more vintage performance will buy him the space to keep going on his own terms at least.
For a veteran who was as nasty as anyone in his heyday, that's all one can hope for.
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