"The Bully" talks leaving Xtreme Couture and the next phase of his career
The sport of mixed martial arts is in a stage of constant evolution. Fighters have to push themselves outside of their comfort levels to learn new disciplines in order to remain competitive. For some, surviving in the sport is a decent enough goal to reach. But for those who want to become the best in the world, change is an important factor in the game.
Gray Maynard knows what it takes to get to the top, and he’s setting out to take the next step.
After a year which added two storied chapters to his rivalry with Frankie Edgar, Maynard put his career under the microscope. Walking away from battles without the title would be enough to sink most fighters, but Maynard’s is optimistic.
He’s ready for the next chapter to begin and made the decision to leave his long-time camp and gym at Xtreme Couture. While leaving his roots at the Vegas gym may be bittersweet, Maynard felt it was necessary.
“The Bully” spoke exclusively with HeavyMMA about the decision and what comes next.
“Leaving Xtreme Couture is something that has been going through my head for awhile,” Maynard said. “I know people want to assume the worst, but that isn’t the case. During my camp for Kenny Florian, I started to think about everything that is out there in this sport. A month before my fight with Edgar in Houston, I made my decision.
“I informed the gym (Xtreme Couture) that I would not be coming back. I felt it was important because win or lose, I wasn’t going to return for my training. I did things this way because I didn’t want to win the title and have people thinking I won the belt and left for something else. I made sure to tell them long before my fight on October 8th, so there wasn’t any confusion.”
While the parting of ways is amicable, Maynard’s decision to leave Xtreme Couture does have complexities. His ambition to increase his own skill set combined with a long talked about move with his girlfriend Jessica Wheeler made for perfect timing. Maynard also encountered several issues leading up to the fight with Edgar at UFC 136 which helped cement the decision in his mind.
“Four weeks away from my fight against Edgar in Houston, I hurt my back, received an epidural and was out for a week and a half. I couldn’t go into the gym because there are always so many people coming and going who I don’t know. I didn’t want anyone to put it out there I was injured. Because of this I had to go to a small gym to train. Without bodies I couldn’t really spar heading into the fight, and the final month is the time to turn it up.
“My training ended up being all over the place and it just wasn’t a good situation. I had to be very controlled with whatever training I could do. This is fighting and those things happen. I’m not making any excuses whatsoever. Fighters get hurt and for me it just happened at that time.
“Again, this is MMA. I know this happens. You have to adjust to things as they come and I know I have to be prepared if it ever happens again. There are no excuses, but I can’t have another camp like my last one.
“Even after going through the last month of that camp, there were other factors involved when making the decision. Leaving was not only about my career, but a life choice as well. We have been talking about moving for a long time now. The timing was finally right for us to do that and to give myself the opportunity to see what else is out there.”
When UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture decided to open his gym in Las Vegas, Maynard was part of the core group who helped get things under way. Alongside fellow MMA veterans Martin Kampmann, Jay Heiron, John Alessio and Mike Pyle, he helped lay the wrestling mats and the foundation for one the most notable gyms in the sport.
“The group of guys I started with at Xtreme Couture – Martin, Jay, Pyle, John Alessio – those guys are family to me. That won’t change just because I’m not doing my training camps there. It isn’t about anything other than it was time to move and me wanting to train anywhere I can.
“I was at Xtreme Couture for a long time and I never trained anywhere else. I was loyal and no one can question that. Xtreme Couture is a great gym with some of the best coaches. I heard Ray Sefo is the head coach over there now, and he does an awesome job. That will be great for the guys. Gil Martinez is a great coach, but my leaving Xtreme Couture isn’t about the quality of coaching or who’s there – it’s about me wanting to train all over the place and learn everything I possibly can.
Maynard’s exodus from the capital of the mixed martial arts world has taken him into northern California for the time being. Rumors have recently circulated that Maynard has joined the team at AKA. While Maynard has certainly spent time training with Jon Fitch and company in San Jose, he is keeping his options open and enjoying the changes as they come.
“Right now I’m up in Santa Cruz and things are great. There are a few gyms I have been training at. I’ve also spent some time at AKA. They have a great gym, an awesome team and I’m enjoying my time here. At this point my focus is on broadening my horizons and wherever I feel that can be accomplished is where I will go. There is a huge world out there and so many great camps where I can learn so many things.
“I just want to get out and train with whoever I can. There are so many other camps and so much I can learn, it became something I needed to do. If that means going down to Brazil and training with Jose Aldo, I’d be excited to go. There are a ton of gyms in Holland and to train with Andy Souwer would be something that interests me. There is so much to learn out there and I want to grow.”