To jiu jitsu purists, Demian Maia’s series of submission victories in the Ultimate Fighting Championship reaffirms its vital role in the sport. But Maia is far from being a one-trick pony.
Maia spent his teenage years in the dojo learning kung fu and karate following a short stint in judo as a child. “When I was a kid, I liked watching martial arts movies and learning how to defend myself,” said Maia. “And that’s why I started.”
Eventually, Maia encountered jiu-jitsu. “I liked the way of the fighting,” recalled Maia, who earned his black belt in just five years. “It is so intelligent and you can control people easily and that’s why it interested me.”
“What is important with my striking skills is that I know how to move better [to anticipate strikes] in the Octagon,” said Maia. Oftentimes, jiu-jitsu geniuses find their flawless ground games gummed up under a barrage of strikes. But much like the sprawl ‘n’ brawl stylists who master wrestling in order to avoid takedowns, Maia has mastered striking so that his submissions shine.
On Aug. 29, Maia will have to bring his complete skill set into the Octagon as he squares off with fellow middleweight contender Nate Marquardt.
“I think Nate is the biggest challenge in my career,” admitted Maia. “He’s a BJJ black belt like me and he’s very well-rounded.” Maia knows the danger Marquardt presents on the feet, in transition, and on the ground, but would prefer to stick to his grappling guns. “My main thing is BJJ. If I can have a fight and just use jiu-jitsu, then it’s perfect for me,” he said.
Still, Maia doesn’t fancy himself the savior of jiu-jitsu in MMA. “It’s impossible to be a good fighter without good knowledge of jiu-jitsu,” said Maia. “You look at the champions and most of them are black belts [so] I don’t think I need to show that jiu-jitsu is still relevant—people know that.”