Demian Maia: Fighting is spiritual
There is an old saying, punch a black belt in the face and he is a brown belt. Punch him again and he is a purple belt. Punch him once more in the face, and you are fighting a blue belt. That makes Demian Maia laugh.
“Do you know somebody who likes to be punched in the face? I think nobody likes being punched in the face — not even boxers or kickboxers. But just as people say that about jiu-jitsu fighters, we can also say that about boxers and kickboxers who just train striking; after the first takedown they become nothing on the ground.”
“Nobody is comfortable being punched in the face. But getting used to that in a fight, it took me like a year and a half of training standup to get to that point, to not blink when you get punched.”
Maia has spent weeks in Holland studying Thai boxing, journeyed to Chicago to study wrestling with Midwesterners, trained with Wanderlei Silva in Las Vegas and lived for four months in San Diego to take advantage of one of the MMA’s most talent-rich metropolis’.
Howeer, the thrill of fighting is not rooted in the ego gratification of administering a butt-kicking. For Maia, it is more about self-discovery and self-revelation..
“I really believe that martial arts and competing at a higher level is something spiritual,” Maia said. “You learn about yourself every day. It’s hard to explain in English. It’s not just fighting, it’s something much deeper. Every time I go to fight it’s a big challenge and this helps me to control myself and overcome my fears. It’s very special and brings you nearer to something spiritual. You become a better person.”
Maia’s ideal of the perfect fight is “To submit my opponent without him hurting me or me hurting him.”
“Fighting for me is a chess game. I’m not angry with my opponent. I just want to go in there and win without him hurting me or me hurting him.”
Maia fights fellow BJJ black belt Jorge Santiago on Saturday in Houston at UFC 136, and believes that Santiago will prefer a standup duel.
“He’s very complete,” Maia said of Santiago. “Ever since my loss to Nate Marquardt I focused a lot on my standup. MMA is a complicated game because it’s hard to keep the balance (between martial arts). So at one point I trained a lot more standing and less jiu-jitsu and I lost a little rhythm on the ground. I’ve been trying to get my focus onto jiu-jitsu again.”