Phoenix, AZ — It has been about 15 months since UFC veteran and jiu-jitsu legend Demian Maia has entered the octagon. Ready to make his return, the former title challenger is very happy to be in front of fans for what is very possibly his retirement fight.
It feels like a bookend of sorts: Maia was a part of the first fight card without fans prior to the sports world shutting down.
“When I fought in Brasilia, the first fight without a crowd, it was pretty awkward,” Maia said during UFC 263 media day on Wednesday. “I was telling the other interviews that when you have always been fighting all your life with crowds, since the time I was fighting jiu-jitsu- there have always been crowds, especially in world [championships] — big crowds. You kind of take for granted the fans, you think it’s nice but I’m too focused on what I’m doing that I’m going to enjoy after. But once you fight with a crowd the importance of energy or whatever you believe. The fans are a part of the show. For me, it’s very important and I’m glad to fight in front of a crowd again.”
With a handful of UFC legends retiring last year without their last fight being in front of a crowd, Maia did not want that for himself. He mentioned his fellow Brazilain Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who retired on ‘Fight Island’ last year without fan present for a proper send-off.
“For me, it was sad that he did his last fight without a crowd — and not just him, but other fighters, too. I was like, man, I don’t want that for me,” Maia said.
“You know, I don’t want to end my career without a crowd. It would be so, so sad, at least in my opinion, and thank God that the events just came back to normal and are coming back slowly, and that’s you know, that’s why I’m here. I’m very glad for that.”
If this is Maia’s last fight, be sure to scream for him.
Watch the full UFC 263 media day scrum with Demian Maia above. The event takes place this Saturday, June 12, at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The main card airs live on PPV.