If things had gone according to the original plan, surging UFC welterweight contender Kamaru Usman would have battled Argentine striker Santiago Ponzinibbio in the main of the UFC’s debut in Chile, which goes down this Saturday in the capital of Santiago. When Ponzinibbio was forced out of the fight with an injury, however, Usman was left without a dance partner — which opened the door for former welterweight title challenger Demian Maia to step in.
As it turns out, this will not actually be Maia’s first trip to Chile. The Brazilian visited the South American country two years ago, on a PR mission with the UFC, educating local journalists and decision makers on the sport of MMA. Given that he did this outreach work in Chile previously, it seemed logical to him to accept the short-notice bout with Usman in the country.
Maia explained his decision in an interview with E. Spencer Kyte of Fansided.
“When we came here last time, I was trying to explain and teach the journalists and the media here [about MMA] because they had no clue what MMA was,” Maia said. “To come and do the first event in Chile and the first event in South America besides Brazil and open this new market is one of the main reasons I accept this fight.”
Maia also delved into the stylistic challenges this bout with the wrestling specialist Usman presents.
“I keep training wrestling, I keep making adjustments since I lost to [Tyron] Woodley,” Maia explained, “I know that [Usman] is a good wrestler and he defends takedowns well, but I know that I’m improving all the time and I’m wondering how my training will work because I didn’t prove it in the last match [with Colby Covington], and I hope it will show on Saturday.”
Do you think Demian Maia can pick up a win in his return to the nation of Chile?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 5/16/2018.