Gray Maynard’s Lost Opportunity

The news that Frankie Edgar has leaped over Gray Maynard in the UFC lightweight pecking order is not surprising. Maynard was virtually guaranteed a title shot at B.J. Penn with a good victory over Nate Diaz at Fight Night 20 last night. Maynard didn’t even have to finish Diaz; he simply needed a resounding win, even if it came by decision.

Unfortunately, Maynard elected to focus most of his effort during the bout on a war of words with Diaz instead of going for the kill. It cost him dearly. The title shot that rightfully should be his will instead go to a man he’s already defeated.

Frankie Edgar is as good of a opponent for Penn as anyone in the lightweight division, but the simple fact is that Maynard sports an undefeated record and has handed Edgar his only loss in the Octagon. If we were going by pure sporting rules, Gray Maynard would be getting a title shot.

But the UFC, and mixed martial arts in general, is not solely about pure sport. This should be obvious by now. A high premium is placed on entertainment value, both by the fans and by the decision-makers at Zuffa. Fighters who can make the fans care will almost always get preferential treatment. This is not to say that Frankie Edgar is a gigantic draw or a superstar of the highest caliber, because he’s not. But he’s popular and he’s beaten several top contenders, which makes him a good title contender in a division that’s coming awfully close to being cleaned out by Penn.

Gray Maynard had a chance to make a statement last night, but he allowed his emotions to dictate his actions in the cage. Instead of lining up across the cage from B.J. Penn in Abu Dhabi, Maynard will likely find himself facing an opponent like Diego Sanchez at some point down the road. “The Bully” is still a contender, but hopefully he’s a contender who realizes that a win isn’t always enough.