In the spirit of unwinding after long, unbroken stretches of fight preparation, numerous MMA fighters will take to the outdoors for some well-deserved R&R when time permits. But the UFC’s Gray Maynard prefers something a little more intense than your average bike ride or walk along the beach: He prefers wakeboarding.
In fact, after wrangling a free wakeboard from his manager (who has pull in the realm of board sports), “The Bully” soon found himself in the midst of a most interesting deal. In exchange for a free wakeboard from Hyperlite, Gray would be asked to train MMA with Rusty Malinoski, one of the world’s most talented wakeboarders.
“Our managers were the ones who worked out the deal,” said Maynard. “It turns out that Rusty loves MMA, so one day he came to the gym and trained MMA with me and a few coaches, and then we went out on the boat afterwards. It was pretty cool, too, because I got free stuff from Hyperlite [Rusty’s main sponsor] and Rusty got free stuff from Everlast, who sponsors me!”
After all the fun that Gray and Rusty experienced together on the water and in the gym, both athletes were able to come away with a renewed appreciation for each other’s respective sport, to say the least. “It looked so easy to me when Rusty was out there doing flips and stuff on his board, but when it was my turn, I found out it wasn’t!” explained an amused Maynard. “But in the gym, when Rusty was working out with the boxing coach, he was all tense when he was trying to punch and everything, saying, ‘Man, it looks so easy when you do it!’ So that was pretty funny.”
Although wakeboarding is something Gray does to forget about MMA for a while, he is also occasionally struck by the similarities between the two sports. “The balance you use in wakeboarding defi nitely translates into MMA, and you’re also pushing it a little more each day and trying out new things because there’s always stuff to learn in both sports,” said Maynard before erupting in laughter. “And if you screw up [in either sport] it hurts! You pay for it with pain!”