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Gray Maynard says focus is on Kenny Florian, not lightweight belt

Maynard says he still won’t call for the belt, but shouldn’t have to after UFC 118


Sam Morris

Gray Maynard speaks to the media before an upcoming fight in this file photo.

Gary Maynard Interview

UFC lightweight Gray Maynard discusses his upcoming fight against Kenny Florian at UFC 118.

Gray Maynard doesn't stand in the octagon after his fights and make demands.

But after watching Frankie Edgar, a man he beat in 2008, take the UFC lightweight belt away from B.J. Penn in April, Maynard pulled out his phone and texted a request to be next in line to matchmaker Joe Silva.

Even for a guy who never asks for anything, it wasn't a hard thing to do.

"That's my main dream and goal in life right now, so it was pretty easy to ask for that," Maynard said.

Maynard will fight in a high-profile bout this weekend at UFC 118 in Boston, Mass., although it won't be against the man he asked for.

Instead of facing Edgar for the belt, Maynard (9-0) will look to keep his undefeated record intact when he meets Kenny Florian (13-4) on the night's main card.

A win over Florian would mark Maynard's eighth-straight victory under the UFC banner and almost certainly would place him next in line to compete for the 155-pound belt.

It's an assumption the Las Vegas-based fighter is doing his best not to think about.

When asked if he felt ready to fight for a UFC title, Maynard quickly changed the subject back to Florian.

"I'm ready for Florian. I'm definitely ready for Florian," Maynard said. "After that, I would love the chance, but I've got to take care of Florian first."

Focusing on what's in front of him arguably has been both good and bad for Maynard during this long undefeated run.

Although not looking past an opponent likely has contributed to his perfect record, some believe Maynard's hesitation to demand a title shot has been a main reason he hasn't received one yet.

According to Maynard, he's never felt comfortable calling out the champion, because every time it seemed appropriate, he already had his hands full.

"That was the problem," Maynard said. "Everybody was saying, 'Gray, you've got to call out the belt,' and I had Nate (Diaz). How am I going to look past Nate? You've got to be careful."

Maynard says the same holds true of his upcoming fight with Florian, whose only two losses as a lightweight have come in UFC title fights.

Florian has been labeled a slight favorite in the fight and is coming off back-to-back stoppage wins over Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi.

As impressive as those recent performances were, Maynard says he learned more about Florian from watching his loss to Penn in August 2009, where he was dominated throughout the fight.

"I see Florian, when it's going good he's moving around and dancing," Maynard said. "He got cracked pretty hard (by Penn) and he changed his plans up really quick."

With Edgar and Penn's rematch taking place as the main event on this weekend's card, Maynard will be nearby when the dust of the lightweight division settles.

If he takes care of business against Florian, it could be the UFC texting Maynard about a title shot this time around.

"I think (next in line) will be me, but I've got to take care of Florian," Maynard said. "And I'm pumped for that. I'm happy about that."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at LVSunFighting

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