Clay "The Carpenter" Guida Interview
What was your most physically challenging fight?
The most challenging fight of Clay’s career actually came before he entered the UFC. “It was a world title fight against Gilbert Melendez back in the Strikeforce (a now defunct west coast based professional MMA promotion) days. In the first round of the fight I took his back and sunk in a rear naked choke hold. I remember squeezing his neck so hard that I could actually hear him gargling, gasping for air. I thought he was finished but somehow he managed to escape”. In retrospect, Clay had experienced so much success from that position that he took his advantage for granted and allowed Melendez back into the fight. “The fight wound up being a 5 round, 25-minute brawl. He continued stuffing my takedowns and effectively blocking my strikes". The fight eventually went to the judges score cards, which Clay lost via split decision.
“I almost had him out early but I let him off the hook. He was a better wrestler and had been training with world class fighters. Fun challenge, but if anything it taught me to never get comfortable even in a dominant position”.
How has MMA changed since you first started?
The greatest change in MMA that Clay has noticed during his 15-year professional career is the increase in talent level due to the increased awareness of the sport. “MMA gyms are everywhere now, enabling people to get into it at a much younger age. MMA has become a real sport that kids grow up watching and training for, much like football, baseball, basketball and traditional wrestling. The fact that kids grow up as MMA practitioners and are able to learn how to properly fight has changed the evolution of the sport”. In the early days of MMA it was common place for a fighter to have one specific style or athletic background. “Gone are the days of fighters being dominant in one area and lacking in another. We don’t really see match-ups of a striker versus a wrestler or someone trained in Jiu-Jitsu versus someone trained in judo. Fighters now a days are able to do it all, and they have been training a well rounded skill set since they first started.”
The increase in awareness and fan interest has caused the UFC to explode with talented fighters, giving rise to far more superstars with cross over potential than in years past. “Look at some of the superstars in MMA now like Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey. The exposure that the sport has gotten from the mainstream has made the sport very lucrative and attracted more elite athletes.” When Clay first entered the UFC, there were roughly 200-250 fighters. Now, the UFC roster boosts close to 700 athletes under contract. The landscape of MMA is constantly evolving as the sport continues to grow as a legitimate global enterprise.
What are three mindset tips you would give to someone on fight day?
1. Enjoy every second of it. Whether it is your debut or your 20th fight. Enjoy it.
2. Be thankful. Be thankful for the opportunity, for your health, for your family. Be thankful for all the fans, for everyone that comes out to support you, whether they are rooting for you or against you, be thankful.
3. Leave it all on the line and have fun. You never know when it is your last fight.
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