VANCOUVER - Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Demian Maia believes he should be next in line for a UFC welterweight title shot if he beats Carlos Condit in Saturday's main event at UFC Fight Night in Vancouver.
Maia was met with raucous cheers from mixed martial arts fans packed inside a convention hall at the Hyatt Regency hotel for open training sessions when he mentioned during an interview Thursday that he should get a long-awaited title shot if he defeats the No. 4-ranked Condit in their highly anticipated five-round fight at Rogers Arena.
Tyron Woodley is currently the champion of the welterweight division. He defeated Robbie Lawler for the title at UFC 201 in June.
Winning this weekend doesn't necessarily make the successful fighter a No. 1 contender, however, with a division that includes Stephen Thompson, with a record of 13-1, and Montreal's Georges St-Pierre on the comeback trail. It was suggested on the website mmafighting.com that the popular Canadian fighter and former welterweight championship could make his return for UFC 206 in Toronto.
Maia, ranked third in the division, believes that if he beats Condit, the No. 1 contender status will be given to either himself or Thompson.
"First of all, I need to win this Saturday. It's not an easy test. It's probably one of the hardest tests in the welterweight division for me," said Maia, who boasts a career record of 23-6 and enters this fight with five wins in a row.
His last loss was to Canadian Rory MacDonald more than two years ago. It's been more than a year since the 38-year-old Maia last fought for five rounds. He earned a unanimous decision over Ryan LaFlare on March 21, 2015.
The 32-year-old Condit has gone the full five rounds in three of his last seven fights.
"Of course, it's always a concern," said Maia. "If you fight five rounds standing up, it's different if you fight five rounds grappling. You spend much more energy when you grapple.
"Even in the grappling game … he knows how to save energy, also. He keeps going all the time. Plus, I think the most important, it's not just about the cardio. His mind is like — he never gives up. That's the hard thing. It's not the cardio. It's his mind."
Condit enters this fight having lost three times in his last five bouts, and prior to this event he had hinted at retirement. He has been successful before in Vancouver, coming back in the final round to defeat MacDonald with a late technical knockout at UFC 115 in 2010.
"I always get a vibe fighting in a place and I've got good vibes fighting here. I love the city and going out and putting on a performance like I did that night … I set the bar high," said Condit.
The UFC removed a scheduled bout between Adam Hunter and Ryan Janes from Saturday's card after it was notified of a potential anti-doping violation against Hunter.
The UFC announcement came after weigh-ins on Friday. The middleweight bout between Hunter and Janes was part of the UFC Fight Pass preliminary card before the scheduled main event between Maia and Condit.
"It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed," the UFC said in a statement. "However, because Hunter was scheduled to compete against Ryan Janes this coming Saturday … there is insufficient time for a full review before the scheduled bout and therefore the fight has been removed from the fight card."
With 10 fights on card for Saturday, including a lightweight bout between Anthony Pettis and Charles Oliveira, the UFC is looking to continue the momentum it gained from last weekend's pay-per-view rematch between super stars Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor.
"People know that (Maia vs. Condit) is a contender fight," said Tom Wright, executive VP and general manager for UFC operations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in an interview.
"Carlos has had success here … and he's pushed Georges St-Pierre to the limit. And what we've found is those fighters who have pushed some of our local talent to really strong performances, they resonate here."
Saturday's event will mark the fourth stop UFC has made in Vancouver. There has been a mixed reaction from local fans in the past.
Attendance has declined in each of the previous two events at Rogers Arena, following a capacity crowd of 16,915 and $4.2 million at the gate when UFC made its debut here six years ago.
Critics have suggested that weaker cards for UFC 131 and UFC 174 are in part to blame for the drop in attendance in Vancouver, which was once listed as one of the top 10 cities per capita in the world for UFC pay-per-view buys.
The UFC scheduled three events in Canada this year. It made its debut in Ottawa in June and will stop in Toronto for UFC 206 on Dec. 10.
Wright said plans are already underway to determine which Canadian cities will host UFC events next year, listing Victoria, Edmonton, Windsor, Moncton and St. John's as cities the UFC has yet to hold events in. He added the MMA circuit will likely host a "similar number of events" north of the border as it did this year.
"I think you'll see a mix of cities we've been to and cities we've not been to," said Wright.