Clay Guida looks to rebound vs. BJ Penn the way he always has, with grateful perspective
Throughout his illustrious pro MMA career, UFC lightweight Clay Guida (34-18) has competed and trained all over the world with some of the very best training partners and coaches. Speaking with Cepeda from Sacramento, CA after his last training session before heading to Brazil for his fight Saturday at UFC 237 against BJ Penn (16-13-2), Guida discusses what he likes about training with Team Alpha Male, where he’s spent the past several years.
“The wrestling environment, the wrestling base, here,” he begins. “Urijah runs it like a high-level college wrestling program. He wrestled Division I at UC Davis and he really keeps that same mindset. It’s the hard-nosed, grinding environment that I was drawn to. It fits my style very well. Everyone knows I want to get the fight to the ground and land in a dominant position.”
The Northern Illinois native and avid outdoorsman also feels at home in Northern California.
“Sacramento is beautiful. In many ways, it reminds me of the Midwest,” he continues. “When I thought of California as a boy I just thought of beaches and the ocean. Here in Sacramento, we’re pretty far inland, however, and it is similar to where I’m from with lots of streams, lakes, and rivers. There’s lots of agriculture, like at home, but there’s more elevation and more rolling hills. We’re 90 minutes from Lake Tahoe and 90 minutes away from the ocean.”
Saturday’s engagement will come nearly a year after Guida’s previous fight – a submission loss to Charles Oliveira near home in Chicago. Tough “The Carpenter” has won two out of his last three fights, he said he’s been ready to fight since January and has had trouble getting fights from the UFC, though he’s thrilled at the opponent he ended up with.
“I had an injury but we worked out the kinks and we’ve been trying to get a fight since January. It’s getting harder to get fights than ever if you’re not winning you’re not fighting,” he says. “I came off a rough one in front of my home crowd. I feel like I let my family and team and my city down.”
Loss in competition clearly hits the hyper-competitive Guida hard. Yet, he never seems to show it, outwardly.
Win or lose, Guida is usually bouncing around the mat afterward, shaking his opponents’ hands, saying classy things. He certainly also has always come back furiously after each setback.
The key to remaining steadfast and buoyant in the face of disappointment for the warrior is perspective, Guida explains.
“It’s about always keeping in the forefront of your mind that we’re having fun and enjoying the process,” he reveals. “It’s about being thankful for what we’re able to do every single day. Don’t get me wrong, being a carpenter before I was able to fight full-time was a great, honest living. But I felt like I was put here to do something greater than that and I’m so blessed and fortunate to be able to compete.
“Now my tools are my gloves and wrestling shoes and my job site is the gym. When I falter, man I just have to get back up, brush the dust off and stop whining and remember how much fun this is. And, there’s going to be more. The only person to keep myself from doing it is myself. We control our destiny.”
Fans provide much of Guida’s motivation, it seems. He believes that it is his responsibility to make every one of his interactions with the sport’s supporters an exciting one, even well before he hits the cage.
“The fact that I get to go out and perform and make it not just a fight, but put on an event for fans,” he says, trailing off before picking back up with enthusiasm. “Anyone who has been to one of our live fights realizes that it is different than watching on television. It’s a full experience. It’s more than boxing, it’s more than wrestling. It starts with the anticipation, then onto when we come on the screen, then to when the camera is on the black curtains and we bust through them bouncing, sweating, hair flying back and forth, screaming the lyrics to whatever our entrance song is, high-fiving fans. The walk-out alone is worth the price of admission, that’s what we want. And then we want to put on an amazing fight. That’s what I think about all the time.”
Winning certainly comes first, when it comes to fight goals. Failing that, however, living a life of one’s own design satisfies Guida.
“It’s about being thankful for all this and knowing that I’m in charge of my ship,” he ends. “We have fun, and learn. It’s amazing – this fall it will be 13 years in the UFC. You’ve been there since the beginning. After all this time it just feels like a year ago.
“I still remember you walking into our locker room 14, 15 years ago for an XFO event in Illinois. Our locker room was a closet or coat-check room (laughs). I remember some of those things so vividly, so all this is amazing. That’s what makes it so special – the people and the moments on this journey. As long as I’m healthy I’m going to keep going.”
About the author:
Elias Cepeda writes a regular column for The UG Feed; you can find Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda.