With the massive growth of MMA, the stakes have gone through the roof for fighters in the UFC. Between improved salaries, discretionary bonuses, appearance fees and marketing deals, the difference between a champion and a contender can be staggering.
"These guys are making millions of dollar in every fight. If Gray Maynard was the champion right now, he'd be a millionaire. [...] He's not. He lost a lot of money by losing that fight," Frank Trigg said on "The MMA Insiders Show" on Las Vegas' ESPNRadio1100/98.9 FM.
Following a loss to Frank Edgar at UFC 136, Maynard felt that sting. He'd come so close, but in the end, Edgar has the belt and the big assignments.
[Related: Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound MMA rankings]
Maynard, faced with climbing back up the ladder, felt it was time for a change. A Las Vegas mainstay since 2006, he left Xtreme Couture and moved to American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Ca. But it wasn't simply about freshening things up.
"Gray just was not prepared. It was really one of those deals where a coach within his staff just would not pay attention any other coaches. He was getting really upset if any other coach tried to explain to him 'hey, this is how hard I'm going to push Gray in my session. You need to back off in your session so he can recover," said Trigg, a former trainer partner of Maynard's at Xtreme Couture. "[Maynard] wasn't prepared. It's ultimately up to one coach that didn't pay attention."
John Gunderson, another former teammate of Maynard's in Sin City, echoed the same sentiment about Maynard being less than prepped for the biggest fight of his life."The last fight Gray wasn't mentally prepared or physically prepared for that fight. I don't think he trained hard enough and he knows that. I think if Gray really put the time in and the work in, Gray could finish him," Gunderson said.
Maynard made to decision to extricate himself from the drama well before the Edgar fight took place.
"We knew six weeks before the fight," Trigg said. "Gray said 'look win, lose or draw, this is my last fight. I'm out of here. I gotta leave Xtreme Couture."
Randy Couture, who was away from the gym for much of the early part of 2011, returned to find a big mess and one of his top fighters leaving. Couture cleaned house with coaches Gil Martinez and Ron Frazier moving elsewhere.
Martinez, with a boxing background, was Maynard's main coach. Whether it was his fault or not that Maynard underachieved, it's pretty clear that the former Michigan State wrestler was way too boxing-centric in his fights against Edgar.
It sounds like Maynard is never going to make the mistake of putting his eggs all in one basket.
"He's not officially joining AKA, he's going up there to train. We've all come to the realization that you can't be in one spot anymore," Trigg said. "If you want to be a great MMA fighter, you have to go down and train with Jose Aldo in Brazil. [...] You've got to go to different places. That's why GSP got so good so quickly. He didn't stay in Montreal. Gray has realized that's what he has to do."
Listen to the rest of the conversation as Trigg talks about whether fighters who bounce around to different camps need a head coach to pull everything together.
Here's hoping the change allows Maynard to take things to the next level. He may still be the best guy in the world at lightweight, but with all the competition out there at 155 pounds, he's probably got a long climb back up the ladder.
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- Gray Maynard