What goes through the mind of a fighter about to make his UFC debut?

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Black belt Demian Maia wrote this article for NOCAUTE magazine (Now the CHOKE MMA supplement found monthly in GRACIEMAG) in November 2007.

In this reflection, Demian addresses the fears and insecurities of an MMA fighter and already mentions Anderson Silva, with whom he would later do battle three years later in Abu Dhabi.

Demian was just coming off winning a title in the ADCC 2007 under-88 kg division, which just added to the pressure on him. See what he had to say in the text that follows. And stop missing all the best scribblings on MMA and Jiu-Jitsu, secure your copy of GRACIEMAG at home every month by clicking here.

Demian listens to John McCarthy before fighting Ryan Jensen. Photo: personal archive.

“Why go through all this? All this stress, all this tension? That’s what I asked myself when in the dressing room at UFC 77, a few hours before going in to fight. And that’s how I feel every time I’m at a championship, whether Jiu-Jitsu or MMA. When I was a blue belt I though that feeling would end… Sweet illusion. The more the professional you become, the greater the responsibility and, consequently, the greater the pressure.

“Now, in the greatest organization in the world, the tension is huge, but it’s not any greater than my joy for being here. I prepared my whole life for this, I didn’t decide to do MMA for money or to satisfy my ego. Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of being the best fighter in the world – I already wanted to be a fighter at nine years of age. I’d buy karate books and would imitate self-defense techniques with some of my friends. I had done a year of judo, but I was really small, I don’t even remember it that well. At twelve I started practicing kung-fu and karate a bit later on – influenced by the movies of the times.

“I dreamed of being in an event like the one I’d seen in the movie “Bloodsport” with Jean-Claude Van Damme. But that was all movie stuff, distant, which perhaps only existed underground… That was how I thought until one fateful night in 1992. On that date I was in the right place: Mauro Pinheiro gymnasium in São Paulo. Three unknown Jiu-Jitsu athletes – at least unknown to me – were getting ready to fight guys from full-contact fighting and from kung-fu. It was a drubbing! The Jiu-Jitsu fighters didn’t bat an eye in quickly beating their opponents. It was my first contact with the gentle art and that was when I started considering training. And before I forget, those ‘unknowns’ were Marcelo Behring, Ralph Gracie and Renzo Gracie.

“On the evening of the UFC that whole story entered my head: I know I was born to fight and, most importantly, I worked hard training my mind and body for this moment. And what I can say is that all the tension goes away when I walk down that corridor. In fact, to me it’s the best part. The truth is I feel like laughing with joy. I even feel more comfortable in MMA than I do in sport Jiu-Jitsu. A lot of people get shaken when faced with as many people as there were in the arena in Cincinnati on October 20 – nearly 15 thousand people –, but I feel good and proud to represent a martial art developed by Brazilians. A martial art that lets you win without having to knock out or injure the adversary.

“In there, in the octagon, there’s another joy. The referee for my fight would be Big John McCarthy. The first UFCs that I watched – with Royce fighting and Big John as referee – determined my future. The UFC is now my stage, and that same octagon from the days of Royce Gracie, who made me want to become a fighter, would host many of my fights.

Epilogue

“I won the fight and headed back to the dressing room. I hung around a corridor trying to see the other fights. I was anxious to see Anderson (against Rich Franklin), since I like him a lot and was rooting for him. It was a show of technique. To me Anderson is the best fighter in the world right now. There’s just one problem, he’s the champion of my weight class. In that corridor, hidden away, I thought of how one day, if I wished to be middleweight champion, I’ll have to face him. I feel it will still be a while, I may win or lose, but on that day I’ll wear a smile on my face.”

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