For the past several months, Gray Maynard has walked around with a bitter taste in his mouth.
Since his title bout on Jan. 1 with UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar ended in a draw, Maynard has been obsessed with righting what he perceives to be an egregious injustice. There is no doubt in Maynard’s mind that he won the fight and should be in possession of the UFC 155-pound belt today. He dominated the first round and believes at least two additional rounds belonged to him.
“I’m still hungry; I’m so hungry,” Maynard told ESPN.com. “You catch that prey and it gets away. You take a bite out of it and you taste that blood in your mouth; it was so close.”
Maynard had found some solace in the fact that a second shot at Edgar’s crown is assured. But during the past month, even that assurance has brought Maynard little relief.
The No. 1 contender had his mind set on claiming the title Saturday night at UFC 130. Everything was to come together for him in the Octagon that night. Maynard spent countless hours tweaking his boxing under Gil Martinez’s guidance. The footwork, the jab, the head movement were all falling into place nicely.
Maynard spent an equal amount of time fine-tuning his defensive wrestling techniques. That the diminutive Edgar took him down several times in their January showdown isn’t lost on Maynard.
But earlier this month Edgar suffered injuries to a rib and his back, placing the fight on hold and further delaying Maynard’s dream of becoming champion.
Maynard loves being a mixed martial artist, but having to wait longer for another shot at Edgar has resulted in an emotional pain that he could never have imagined.
Edgar’s injuries were severe enough to pull the plug on his training camp. But he isn’t getting any sympathy from Maynard, who points that he too had numerous injuries to overcome while training for the fight.
“For me the whole point of everything is to compete,” said Maynard, who resides in Las Vegas. “It’s not about the money. Missing out on the payday, it hurts, but I think more about the competition.
“Now I’m just trying to heal up. It’s always easy for someone to tell you it’s a good thing [to take time to heal], it might be a good thing, but it might not. You never know. But I was prepared to fight [Saturday night] -- maybe not my knee or my elbow or my eye, you never know, but I’ve pushed through a lot of things in my life.
“In my mind, I was prepared for that fight.”
With UFC 130 just days away and the hoopla surrounding it visible everywhere in Las Vegas, the pain of not competing was proving too much for Maynard to handle.
He and Edgar were to headline UFC 130. Maynard believed it was to be his greatest night as a mixed martial artist. But on nearly every Las Vegas street corner, he would see a billboard promoting the event. And neither his picture nor Edgar's was anywhere to be found. With frustration and impatience mounting, Maynard decided to get out of town for awhile.
“I’m in Eagle, Mich. It’s a small town just west of East Lansing,” said Maynard, who wrestled at Michigan State University. “It’s a great place. It’s way out in the country. My niece, nephew, sister and brother-in-law are here. It’s a good opportunity for me to just have some down time. It’s real peaceful out here.
“I don’t ever check the Internet. I don’t even have cable.”
Maynard is enjoying every minute away from the bright lights of Las Vegas, but all good things must end. He plans to leave Eagle, Mich., sometime this week.
When he returns home, the buildup to UFC 130 will be at its peak. Maynard doesn’t plan to attend the event, but has left the door slightly ajar in case he changes his mind.
“I won’t know until about an hour before,” Maynard said. “After all this, I guess I’ve gone into hibernation mode. I’m emotional about this type of stuff.”