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There isn’t a clearer contrast in all of MMA than that between Demian Maia and Colby Covington, who fought each other this past Saturday at UFC Sao Paulo. Demian Maia is, and remains, the nicest guy you will ever meet. He goes into fights with the goal of winning while inflicting the least hurt possible, living out the ethics of the “gentle art” he represents as well as anyone you will ever meet. Covington called all of Brazil a dump, full of filthy animals, and then apologized to the filthy animals for the comparison. It’s a promotional tactic designed to maximize shock value, getting Colby the most attention possible; a discount version of the strategy employed by Conor McGregor, or more accurately Chael Sonnen. Maia remained above it, seemingly immune to the verbal barbs.
That’s what made Saturday’s fight so compelling- it was clearly a fight between the “good guy” and the heel, on the good guy’s home turf. Brazilian crowds are notoriously hostile to outsiders, chanting death at anyone fighting one of their countrymen. Maia refused to stoop to Covington’s level on the mic before the bout; Covington gloried in the death chants, taunting the crowds. When the bell rang, Maia surprised just about everyone by knuckling up and going to war with the brash American, staying in the pocket and throwing bombs. Demian Maia, the 39-year-old grappler who specializes in taking people down and choking them out as efficiently as possible, had decided his best option was brawling with Colby Covington. For a round, it actually worked. Maia won the first round on two out of three scorecards, even busting up Covington’s face.
It wasn’t to last, though. There was no strategy that could have made up that decade gap in youthful stamina. Maia went back to his signature takedowns in the second rounds, trying to set them up with his striking, but it was no use. Covington is a powerful and active wrestler, who stuffed all of Maia’s shots and refused to shoot at all himself. Maia hung in the fight till the final bell, but at the end, he lay, face covered in blood, on the canvas, while Covington circled the Octagon to stony silence from the crowd.
Yet, it seems Maia holds no hard feelings. He has competed many, many times, twice with a UFC belt on the line. For Maia, this is just “one more step in the path.” He detailed his mindset in a Facebook post to his fans:
I want to thank everyone for their support and cheer, in one more step in my path. The great lesson of the sport is knowing that competing always brings lessons, and we have to be thankful for victory and defeat for learning. I did my best, I made some mistakes and moved a little, which may have embarrassed the execution of my strategy, but that does not take the credit of my opponent, who deserved the victory, and I come out of my head high knowing that I fulfilled my Role as best I could, and I move on to the next step of the journey. Thank you all!
I would love to say, “In a world of Covingtons, be like Maia”, but I don’t think it is quite that simple. Covington may be playing the part of an asshole, but I can’t blame him for trying to get all the attention he can in the short window of opportunity we call a career. What I can say though, is that every fighter should be authentically himself. If you aren’t McGregor, don’t try to be. Embrace the spiritual lessons of the journey; be authentic like Demian Maia.
I would love to see this matchup. Usman is one of the few with the wrestling chops to hang with Covington, and it would be a fight for the future of the division.
There are some great fights this weekend.
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Francis Ngannou agreed
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That’ll do, sir. That’ll do.
I had literally never heard of this fighter, which shows you how deep my MMA knowledge does not go. Anyone that outgrappled Jake Shields in MMA is worth your attention:
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I don’t know if this was real or just as “pro wrestling” as the rest of it, but that’s a sweet kick regardless.
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You got 28 minutes and 51 seconds?
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