The American Southwest is known for its rugged terrain and sun soaked blue collar tenacity so it is only appropriate that such an environment would produce one of the top lightweight fighters in world…Gray Maynard. Born on May 9th 1979 Maynard would spend most of his formative years in ever changing shadows of Las Vegas before making a journey into the Midwest for his final two years of high school where he attended St. Edward in Lakewood Ohio. A standout earning top honors on both the state and national levels Maynard garnered individual acclaim while leading his team to an undefeated record and a national title.
Gray spent the next four years wearing Spartan green as he dedicated himself to the highest level of competition. Wrestling alongside future UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, Maynard went on to claim All-American honors for 3 consecutive years as he worked tirelessly to improve his power and control. Opportunity came to call when two-divisional UFC champion B.J. Penn offered Gray a position in training camp as he sought Maynard’s unique blend of power and ferocity. With bags packed he traveled to Hilo Hawaii and as he took his first glimpse of a professional fighter’s life once again the fires of inspiration and dedication raged.
Training everywhere and anywhere he could find Gray worked to develop the new and unfamiliar skills necessary to compete in mixed martial arts. While every fighter determines success on an individual basis there was only one fashion Gray would accept and it had to come at the purest and highest form. When UFC legend Randy Couture opened his gym X-treme Couture, Gray finally had the laboratory in which to perfect the formula. With intensity from blood and sweat he forged an iron will and when the determination to be the best became the focus “The Bully” was finally completed.
The UFC came to call with an invitation to compete on the fifth season of their hit reality program “The Ultimate Fighter” and not only was Gray the first pick of Coach B.J. Penn but also the house favorite to win the tournament. His preliminary round victory came over Wayne Weems and a guillotine choke ended the tournament in the quarterfinals for Brandon Melendez but it was the technical prowess of eventual winner Nate Diaz that ended the tournament for Gray with a second round guillotine.
Invited back by the UFC for “The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale” Maynard faced Rob Emerson in a bout that still looms controversial in the history of the show. In the second round Gray used his strength and power advantage to pick up Emerson and slam him viciously to the canvas. Upon impact Emerson tapped to stop the fight as his ribs had been injured but the referee claimed that Gray had also been knocked out from the force of the slam. Despite protest and medical opinion to back up his argument the bout went into the books as a “No Contest” and to date it is the closest Gray has come to defeat.
Feeling he had something to prove Gray jumped started his official career with the UFC as it only took 9 seconds and one punch to knockout Joe Veres. It was the second fastest knockout in UFC history and Maynard made his official debut in proper fashion. Keeping the momentum rolling he earned a unanimous decision over Dennis Siver at UFC Fight Night 12 making his first two appearances back to back victories. For his next fight the organization matched up two working class prospects with bright futures as Gray took on Frankie Edgar. It was strength and ability versus speed as Gray used his superior wrestling technique to outclass Edgar.
Suddenly Maynard’s name was thrown into the mix with the next tier of fighter in the UFC lightweight division and one after one he toppled all comers. Wins over Rich Clementi, Jim Miller and former contender Roger Huerta positioned Gray in a very elite group atop the weight class. During the bouts with Miller and Huerta Maynard’s progress became visible to the MMA community as he became increasingly dangerous throughout every inch of the octagon. While Gray began his career with a rock solid wrestling foundation his transition into a complete fighter was now in full bloom. Throughout all three rounds with New Jersey native Jim Miller, Gray showed a much improved stand up game as his punches snapped crisp and his power found a home with frequency. Against a fighter so highly regarded for his cardio in Huerta, Gray pushed a break neck pace and beat Huerta in every aspect of the fight. Late in the third round Gray showed the world a flash of his ever improving jiu-jitsu skills as he nearly ended the fight with a deep kimura.
With an undefeated record and stringing together six wins under the UFC banner the organization felt it was time for redemption as they finally gave Gray his long awaited rematch with Nate Diaz. The road leading up to the fight was filled with Diaz’s unique brand of trash talk and slander but Gray kept his focus and when the cage doors closed “The Bully” unleashed. Gray pressed an intense game plan that dominated the early stages of the fight but over the course of the final round and a half a very personal grudge took over and a once civilized bout turned into a street fight. When the scorecards were read Gray claimed revenge as the judge’s rendered a split decision victory in his favor.
After defeating Diaz at UFC Fight Night 20 Gray returned to Las Vegas and immediately went to work in the gym. The hunger to become a champion burned inside and when the UFC announced that he would be facing Kenny Florian to determine the number one contender at UFC 118 it was the call Maynard had been waiting for. Not only did this present the chance to fulfill the dream but he would be facing Florian in his own backyard of Boston which added the motivation of doing battle in a hostile environment. When the bout with Florian got under way Gray used his footwork and stand up to keep his opponent on the defensive and when the window presented itself Gray shot in and used his power to slam Florian to the canvas. Again and again, each time with crushing results Maynard slammed Florian to the mat and once on his back Kenny had no room to work as Gray pounded away relentlessly from top position using heavy hands and elbows to break his opponent’s will. When the final bell sounded Gray’s hand was raised and he had officially become the number one contender to the UFC lightweight championship.
Next Gray awaits the official date for his meeting with Frankie Edgar and in a mirror image of the first go round between the two young lions, Gray will once again have “The Answer” that no one else has had thus far. Overall in his young career Gray holds victories over elite fighters such as Nate Diaz, Jim Miller, Kenny Florian and champion Frankie Edgar and “The Bully” is the only fighter who can claim victories over all four. What began in the brutal deserts of the southwest now turns its focus towards 12 lbs. of championship gold. Maynard will not rest until the belt is placed around his waist and “The Bully” takes his seat a top the highly competitive UFC lightweight division.