Gray Maynard is a family man, first and foremost. His career paints him as a mixed martial artist for the UFC but make no mistake he puts just as much heart into being a dad as he does in the cage if not more. With the fourth fastest knockout in UFC history, after just nine seconds, he has more than earned his nickname “The Bully”. When I reached out to Gray he was more than happy to take part and this is what really made me a fan for life. I had followed his career pretty closely, and watched him make some great fighters literally run away from him inside the cage, but when he said that was one of the “most important interviews he had ever done”, I knew not only did he have the skills and the heart, but he had his priorities straight and could stand as an inspiration on all levels. To me, a champion is made just as much outside the cage as he is inside it, and Gray seems to have a pretty good handle on both.
1. Tell us about what you do, who you are, and how you balance your career with being a dad?
I currently fight mixed martial arts (MMA) for The Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). I have been training and competing in wrestling or MMA since I was 3 years old. When my daughter was born I swore I would be able to juggle my daddy duties and training without a glitch. But, as I found out the daddy inside me wanted to make everything perfect for her and training took a back seat. As parents we decided it was best when I had an upcoming fight I needed to go away to do my “training camp” for 2 months. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But, it truly is my responsibility to provide for my family. They do fly out for 1 week each month to be with me. I am so fortunate she has the best mother I could ever have hoped for. We video chat morning and night. It’s my motivation everyday to make it possible for them to have each other while I’m gone 24 hours a day. There’s no substitute for her mother. She is our daughters “rock” and “lifeline” right now. It’s my job to let her do her job as a mother, being there to support them anyway I can. Looking at the positive, I really do cherish every moment I am able to spend with them in between “training camps” or when they visit me during my training.
2. What does being a modern-day dad mean to you?
A modern day dad to me is using the past as reference to be the best dad you can possibly be. There is so much information for parents to learn from so you can help your child grow into a wonderful human being. I really felt so happy and fortunate to have had a beautiful healthy daughter. I really did appreciate people congratulating me and the happiness it brought when she was born. But deep down I felt like I was getting applauded at the beginning of a iron man competition, when I still had a huge challenge ahead of me. The real gratification will come when to me 10, 20, 30, 40 years down the road when a person says “how my children are special people”, helping and watching them excel in activities, teaching and then seeing them show compassion to nature and people, feeding their curiosity for life and the world. The list can go on for days. But those are the moments when I feel I can actually accept some responsibly for creating a beautiful soul.
3.How did becoming a father change your life?
Of course when you see your child born you’re full of emotions. It’s a life changing experience in that respect. But as you see them grow and realize the power you have as a parent to help direct them in life, it’s really such a “mind blowing” epiphany. It really puts your actions in perspective. Nobody is perfect in this world, but it definitely gives you that extra incentive to be the best example you can be for that child.
4. Whats the greatest part about being a dad?
I’m still a new dad and there’s so many “greatest” parts. But right now, it’s definitely watching her “first” everything. Words, walking, new foods, new experiences, etc. Those moments bring out the child in you. Which creates a bond between the two you. The amazement they have for life just makes you forget about everything else in the world and actually live that moment to absolute fullest.
5. Can you share a funny story about being a father?
My daughter was about 16 months old. And she had an infatuation with gum. Anytime she saw us chewing gum, she pointed to our mouth and would say gum until we opened our mouth and she could pull it out, play with it, taste it, hold it, and whatever else she could do with it. Literally, she would pry our mouths open and was so determined to get the gum. Most times she would put it back in our mouth afterward. Then one time she put it in her mouth and swallowed the gum before we could say or do anything. When we said spit it out she acted like she spit it out in my hand, but nothing came out. Then I proceeded to ask her where it went and she held her hands up and said “I don’t know.” We asked her numerous times and the same answer. I had never heard her say those words before. But they came out clear as day. She repetitively tried to deflect the question. We of course laughed, but it was also one of those moments you start to understand how smart and perceptive these children are to the world around them.
6. What advice can you give any new father out there?
From first hand experience, choices aren’t always easy or ideal as a dad. But as long as you’re truly making them with your families best interest at heart, you’ll always be the “worlds greatest dad” to them. There’s no better award than that….. Oh yeah…. And laugh with them every chance you get!! To be continued…. I’m still learning
Thanks so much for taking part Gray. You really are an inspiration and a fantastic father. From here on out you’ve got a whole slew of “Modern Day Dads” rooting for you in every match. Keep up the great work and we will see you in the cage!