If Demian Maia can beat Jake Shields in his hometown of Sao Paulo on Wednesday, he will be on the verge of title contention in the UFC welterweight division.
It’s a situation even the eternally optimistic Maia would have had a hard time picturing less than two years ago.
In January 2012, the former middleweight title challenger not only lost to Chris Weidman, but broke his hand in a lackluster effort. As he was recovering, his wife lost her baby during pregnancy. While leaving the hospital, the couple was robbed by eight armed gunmen.
Maia pondered quitting the sport, but instead decided to drop to 170 pounds and try to make one more run at a title. Things have gone great for him since. He has won three straight fights and avoided any further tumult outside the cage.
“All that bad stuff happened right at the same time. After that, things started to go well,” Maia said. “It’s funny how life is sometimes. In one month, all these bad things can happen and then everything changes and a year and a half later everything is going great again.”
Maia, 35, hopes the turnaround continues when he fights Shields at UFC Fight Night 29 on Wednesday on a card that will air on Fox Sports 1 (Cable 329).
Maia said he feels rejuvenated since his drop in weight.
“After I fought Chris Weidman, I was very upset because it didn’t go well at all. Not just because I lost, but I didn’t like the fight,” Maia said.
He hadn’t previously thought about cutting weight because he competed in open division jiu-jitsu tournaments much of his life and didn’t think size was a major factor. But Maia took note of how big his fellow middleweights were getting and decided that in order to achieve his ultimate goal, he would have to do it at welterweight.
A win over a former Strikeforce champion would look good on Maia’s welterweight resume. Maia knows he will have the hometown crowd behind him.
“I know many of my friends will be there, but as an athlete I have learned how to turn that into positive energy, not a bad pressure,” he said.
The 10-fight card, which also includes a welterweight bout between Dong Hyun Kim and Erick Silva, airs live at 4 p.m.
■ MIR-OVEREEM MOVED — A pivotal bout for two slumping heavyweights has been pushed back. Alistair Overeem will now fight Las Vegan Frank Mir on the Super Bowl card in New Jersey on Feb. 1 instead of the previously announced date of Nov. 16 in Las Vegas.
In a statement, the UFC cited a decision made “in conjunction with the (Nevada Athletic Commission) representatives to provide more time following Frank Mir’s recent Aug. 31 competition.”
Mir was knocked out by Josh Barnett in the first round that night, marking his third straight loss.
“While there was no indication whatsoever that Mir wouldn’t be fully, medically cleared in time to compete on Nov. 16, UFC officials and Nevada Commission representatives believed that a short postponement would allow both athletes more time to train for the bout.”
Overeem has lost his last two fights to drop out of title contention.
UFC 169 in Newark was announced with Glover Teixeira challenging Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title as the main event. However, UFC president Dana White said Monday the fight was announced prematurely and likely won’t take place until March.
■ ROTHWELL SUSPENDED — The UFC has suspended heavyweight Ben Rothwell for nine months after a blood test revealed an elevated level of testosterone in his system following his win over Brandon Vera on Aug. 31 in Milwaukee.
The suspension is retroactive to the date of the fight. Rothwell had been granted a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone, but fighters with a TUE must still test within allowable limits. Rothwell’s levels were outside those parameters following his knockout of Vera.
The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, which regulates MMA in the state, decided only to issue Rothwell a warning.
The UFC, however, went a step further and suspended Rothwell, citing a violation of the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy.
■ DRYSDALE DEBUT RESCHEDULED — Las Vegan Robert Drysdale is slated to make his UFC debut against Cody Donovan at UFC 167 on Nov. 16 at the MGM Grand.
The light heavyweight had been scheduled to fight Ednaldo Oliveira at UFC 163 in August, but was forced to withdraw due to staph infection.
Drysdale, a decorated jiu-jitsu competitor and prominent local instructor, is 6-0 with six first-round submissions in his professional MMA career.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.