"My girl is pregnant and that changes your outlook in life," Maynard said. "I don't just want that belt for myself now, but to secure the future for my kid who is about to come into the world. Being a world champion and having big fights secures my kid's future."
Though it sounds less of a priority, this fight truly is a step toward redemption for Maynard (11-1-1 MMA).
Maynard, who hasn't fought since October, is winless in his last two bouts, a loss and a draw to former lightweight champion and Toms River, N.J., native Frankie Edgar. A win and Maynard is back in the driver's seat as the No. 1 contender for the lightweight title.
"I've knocked the UFC world champion down five times and probably been as close to the title as you can get without actually holding it," said Maynard in reference to his battles with Edgar. "I want to go one punch, 1 second, better next time. It was very frustrating not being able to get the win despite beating Edgar up, and it took a long time getting over it. But I'm back and I know I'm able to beat anyone in the division."
In Guida (29-9) Maynard isn't getting a pushover. Guida and his trademark curly mane had a four-fight win streak snapped by current champion Benson Henderson at November's UFC on Fox special, a battle royale that went to judges' decision. Guida, 30, has been in epic battles with the likes of Urijah Faber, Kenny Florian and current Strikeforce lightweight champion Nate Diaz. He is looking to restore his name among the elite yet again.
"The lightweight division is so stacked right now, I think it is safe to say I've got to knock Gray out to get a title shot," said Guida. "There's five or six guys right now at 155 pounds who are all one big punch or one big kick from being the No. 1 contender.
“Gray is the most decorated college wrestler I've ever faced but this isn't college wrestling. I wasn't a technical wrestler but for MMA wrestling my sporadic movement and my tenacity — I will not let go of your leg or waist until I get you down — makes me the better wrestler in MMA. I think that will be the difference here, but this guys is a monster and it will be a war."
Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.