As has been the case with all of his fights, lightweight contender Clay Guida approaches Friday night’s showdown against Gray Maynard determined, focused and confident. Guida knows Maynard is a very tough out. And like Guida, the 10-1-1 Maynard enters their UFC on FX 4 encounter having lost his most recent bout. Neither contender can afford a second straight setback in the crowded 155-pound division. They meet in a five-round main event at Revel Casino in Atlantic City.
Despite the high stakes, Guida is as calm as ever. Under similar circumstances, most fighters would struggle to get their nerves under control.
That just isn’t the case with Guida. He could not be in a more peaceful state of mind days before what is possibly the most important mixed martial arts contest of his professional career. For one, Guida has no doubt that his hand -- not Maynard’s -- will be raised when the five-rounder concludes -- if it lasts that long.
Then there is the matter of what’s happening in Guida’s non-UFC world. Things are so good in Guida’s personal life that training camp has been a virtual breeze. That’s what happens when a fighter isn’t experiencing personal distractions -- especially those of a financial nature.
“I have a couple of good business things going on outside of mixed martial arts,” Guida told ESPN.com. “I have a very successful gym [Clay Guida’s MMAStop Fitness in Crest Hill, Ill.].
“There are good people looking over my gym back home. I’ve made some good investments with people I grew up with, and good financial advisors. This makes it easy for me, knowing that I can train every day to become a better fighter and get closer to my dream, which is to become the lightweight champion.”
Guida is extremely happy with the growth of his gym. It doesn’t hurt that several high-profile fighters and trainers have taken time to visit and offer instructions to wide-eyed youngsters. UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit is slated to conduct a seminar there on June 30, and he's just the latest in a line of mixed martial arts' celebrities to grace the gym with their presence.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, trainer Greg Jackson, lightweight contender Donald Cerrone, retired light heavyweight Matt Hamill and UFC bantamweight titleholder Dominick Cruz are some of the fighters who’ve conducted seminars at the gym.
The fighters, however, aren’t simply offering specific mixed martial arts instructions. Guida is quick to point out that he isn’t running your standard MMA facility.
“It’s a family fitness center,” Guida said. “It’s not necessarily a mixed martial arts or fight gym. It’s targeted toward families and kids, who want to try kickboxing, wrestling, jujitsu and personal training, things like that.
“It helps them build a healthy lifestyle.”
And maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t limited to nonprofessionals. Guida (29-12) is the biggest beneficiary of practicing what he preaches. While many big-name fighters have been hit by the injury bug recently, Guida has taken extra precaution to reduce the odds that he will join the list.
Being in the best physical condition possible for his bout with Maynard is a very high priority for Guida, and it's a delicate balancing act.
“It’s about pulling back the reins,” said Guida, who still trains at Team Jackson-Winkeljohn in Albuquerque, N.M. “We train hard, but we’re also very smart about our training. We’re not trying to knock each other out in the gym. But at the same time we are going at it 100 percent and trying to give each other the best workout we can.
“It’s just about being careful. But when you lighten up in practice, sometimes that’s when you get hurt. And when you lighten up, you’re not getting the most out of your training session. So it’s 50-50; anything can happen.”
Everything has been clicking for Guida during this training camp. His weight is on point, his timing couldn’t be better and his confidence level is off the charts.
It’s not enough to win against Maynard; Guida wants to deliver a strong message as well: that he is as deserving of a lightweight title shot as anyone in the division.
“Finishing Gray Maynard puts me right back to being the No. 1 contender," Guida said. "It puts me right there."
“I know they said Nate [Diaz] is getting the title shot. Nate has beaten three guys in a row -- one of my teammates [Donald Cerrone], Takanori Gomi and Jim Miller, [but] who did he beat before that? Before I lost to [Benson] Henderson, which was a very close fight, people say it could have gone either way, I won four in a row -- three submissions, and I beat two former world champions on the way.
“Gray Maynard hadn’t lost in two or three years. But a finish over Gray is what I’m looking for.”