The MMA world was shaken to its very core early this morning when we learned that Demian Maia would be pulling out of this Saturday’s main event in Abu Dhabi against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I scoured the internet in search of some answers. This wasn’t just another fighter pulling out of a fight due to injury or illness.
This was something more.
I decided to get some answers. I hopped on the next flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil, armed with only a green Mead notepad and a head full of confusion.
When I arrived, I started asking everyone in site where I could find Demian Maia. Either the language barrier was too much to handle, or they were just extremely ashamed of their hometown hero, because my inquiries were met with blank stares.
Luckily, I caught Demian at a local Baskin Robbins, and he was nice enough to sit down for an interview with me.
I introduced myself to his interpreter, and settled in. I immediately noticed Maia hadn’t ordered anything to eat, and he was also having a hard time making eye contact with me.
“Hey, what gives? Your fight is Saturday! You’ve fallen into a title shot against one of the greatest fighters in history! You have the chance to main event the UFC’s first event in –.”
Maia held his hand up and looked at me.
“I know, I know. It’s just…” Maia looked off in the distance at some kids running around as their mother tried half-heartedly to maintain order.
“I felt so confident, you know? I saw the odds. I know the deal. I’m not supposed to have a chance in this fight. But the more I saw people talking about me on the internet, and the more I saw myself on the promotional posters…” He trailed off again.
“Well what happened?”
“The UFC has been replaying some of its biggest fights on television recently. I knew Anderson was good… but I’ve never seen anything like him. Did you see his fight with Forrest Griffin?”
“Fight?” I scoffed. “Yeah, I saw it.”
Maia fidgeted with the menu and set it down. “He knocked out a former champion… with a JAB… while backing away!”
I thought back to Nate Marquardt knocking Maia unconscious in 21 seconds at UFC 102. Before I could say a word, Maia interrupted me.
“I can’t even last half a minute with Nate Marquardt. And I’m sure you know what happened when Anderson fought him… I have no chance. I can’t do this. It’s over. When you go back to America, tell them it’s over.”
MMA match be damned. He was right.
I suddenly realized this was my chance to save the event. To save the title fight. To save Demian Maia’s career forever. Surely, just a few kind words from the hottest young reporter this side of Sao Paulo could change things around.
Instead, I told the truth.
“Demian, I’m gonna be honest with you. The only reason you’re even getting this title shot is because Vitor Belfort is hurt, and Chael Sonnen got cut too badly against Marquardt. You lucked into this, and the more I think about it, you owe it to your family and your well-being to call this fight off.”
Demian smiled weakly, as if to say “I know.”
I returned home with a bittersweet feeling in my gut. On one hand, I had saved a man’s life. On the other, I had cost millions of viewers an Anderson Silva fight.
I tossed and turned all afternoon, unable to shake the feeling of guilt within me. I knew I had to call Anderson Silva and explain what was really going on.
“Dude, you’re gonna tear him up, and he knows it.”
Anderson laughed it off. “No worries,” he chuckled. “Vitor and Chael did the same thing. That’s why I like to fight light-heavyweight. No one wants to fight me at 185.”
The call made me feel a little better. It was probably for the best anyways, and UFC 112 could easily promote BJ Penn’s Lightweight title defense against Frankie Edgar to the main event. I hadn’t saved the day, but things were finally cleared up.
As I began writing this article, I got a call from Demian Maia.
“Hey Justin, don’t worry about talking me out of the fight. I had already made my mind up. I was just gonna butt-flop for 25 minutes anyways.”
Remain juicy, and I’ll do the same.
Justin “The Juice” Orel
Also, check out my slightly-more serious take on the Art of Fighting 7 event.