Rising star Clay “The Carpenter” Guida (21-6) will take on Vale Tudo stylist and UFC veteran Din “Dinyero” Thomas (21-7) in his second UFC appearance at Ultimate Fight Night 8 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on Thursday.
Two days before the showdown with Thomas, Guida took some time to talk about the the splash he made in 2006, his “accidental” entry into the sport, and his goals for 2007.
Q. This will be your second UFC fight to date. What do you feel will be different about this test compared to your first fight in the octagon?
A. Well, it’s a different opponent with different strengths and weaknesses. They both do Jiu-jitsu, so they are similar in that way. Din is a veteran of UFC but I don’t think that matters. He’s not going to prevail in this fight.
Q. Your career has progressed tremendously over the last year. Has becoming a bigger name in the sport changed you as a fighter or as a person in any way?
A. Not really. I do get recognized when I go to see other fights. Nobody really notices me in restaurants or anything yet, but I love the lifestyle. I’m very glad to be making a living at fighting and happy I don’t have to work a 9 to 5 job. In a couple of years I hope to be a big name. I’m having a lot of fun. I love this sport.
Q. Your win over Josh Thomson last March was the catalyst behind the big jump you've made in the sport. What do you feel was most key in your training regimen that allowed you to fight relentlessly for five full rounds like you did against Josh?
A. Athleticism and intensity. There’s no big secret. I train hard and really push my conditioning. I spend a lot of time in the gym. When my adrenaline is pumping my opponents just can’t take it.
Q. A few months after the fight with Josh, you fought Gilbert Melendez. Looking back on that fight, was there anything you feel you could have done differently to beat Gilbert?
A. Yes, (I should have) kept my hands up! For some reason, my punches wouldn’t come together. I couldn’t get any combinations to work.
Q. Do you have any desire to rematch Gilbert this year?
A. A rematch wouldn’t really help either of us right now. We’re in two different organizations at the moment anyway. I mean, maybe down the road, but nothing in the near future. He’s a good guy and I wish him all the best.
Q. During the fight with Gilbert, there was some controversy in the crowd involving your fans, namely your family. From what you've been told, what happened there?
A. I don’t really want to discuss my family, but it was really unfair. My parents were cheering for me, and the guys behind them were for Gilbert. My Dad turned around and one of them hit him in the face. They busted his lip and broke his glasses. Then, the security people literally carried my Mom, Dad, and a lady friend of the family, out to the parking lot and turned them loose. The guys that him them got to stay.
Q. Can we expect to see you return to action in Strikeforce or will you be fighting exclusively for UFC this year?
A. Anything can happen. It depends on what goes on this year, but the UFC is taking good care of me and as long as they do, I will stick around. But, Strikeforce is a great organization too. They have good people and really good venues. The timing just has to be right for me.
Q. What would you ideally like to accomplish in 2007?
A. I want to keep fighting for a title. I want to be the most anticipated competitor in the UFC. I want people to say, “Where is Clay Guida fighting next”? I want to keep having a good time and winning. I would make a great champion.
Q. You seem pretty laid back outside of the ring. How would you describe your personality?
A. Well, I am definitely “laid back”. I like to hang out with my friends, family and teammates. I spend a lot of time training. Actually, I could probably stand to get more rest. But, when it comes time to fight, I am very intense. Otherwise, I’m just a regular kid.
Q. What is the fight scene like in Chicago? Do you feel you might like to relocate like a lot of fighters do in order to experience a different type of training?
A. I live in the suburbs but go into the city to train. I do train a quite a few different gyms in Chicago. As far as the fight scene there, within a couple of hours drive, there are MMA fights just about every weekend. It’s just a matter of time before there will be some very big shows there. The UFC will probably be there soon. There are some excellent venues there. It’s growing all the time.
Q. In order to beat the top fighters in your weight class, you need to be a complete fighter. What have you been doing in terms of training to strengthen your stand up fighting skills and bring them up to par with your wrestling ability?
A. I am working with the best boxers in the Chicago area. And, I do lots and lots of sparring. Just basically learning the tricks of the trade.
Q. People have mentioned that you came across the sport of MMA sort of "by accident." Can you tell me about this?
A. It all started when my brother was fighting in a small show. Someone didn’t show up that night for a fight and I volunteered to fill in. They asked me if I had any experience and I told them I had been on a wrestling team. I lost the fight that night but it changed my life forever.
Q. Anything you want to say to the fans?
A. It’s just the beginning and I am up and coming. I’m in it for the long hall so keep watching for my fights.