EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - One of the first stops Ultimate Fighting Championship director of communications and Egg Harbor Township High School graduate Dave Sholler made upon arriving in South Jersey was at a Wawa.
He wanted to introduce UFC lightweight contender Gray Maynard to the world of hoagies, frozen Cokes and their famous selection of iced teas.
"I grew up eating shorties (6-inch hoagies)," Sholler told a group of about 50 student-athletes at his alma mater Wednesday. "I even showed Gray how to work the screens and everything. But he said no."
Maynard, who will fight Clay Guida at Revel in Atlantic City on June 22, explained to the crowd that he attributes a large part of his success in the cage to his diet.
Maynard became a vegan a few months ago after years of experimenting to see how his body reacted to certain foods. He even moved from Las Vegas to Santa Cruz, Calif., in search of a healthier lifestyle.
"It seems like everyone there eats healthy and is very outdoorsy," Maynard said after posing for pictures with several of the EHT students. "I'm that way, too. I've been doing a lot of mountain biking, paddleboarding and surfing. I won't go near 'Mavericks' (the famous surf break in nearby Half Moon Bay, Calif.), though. I may be dumb, but I'm not dumb enough to (mess) with Mother Nature."
Maynard fielded questions about training and nutrition from a rapt audience that included wrestlers, football players and track and field competitors.
Maynard could relate to their struggles when it comes to staying in shape and losing weight. Although he grew up in Las Vegas, he moved to Lakewood, Ohio, for his junior and senior years to wrestle for national power St. Edward's High School. He then wrestled for Michigan State University, where his teammates included UFC light-heavyweight contender Rashad Evans.
"As a kid, I did the same stuff some of you do," he said. "I would starve myself for two days to make weight and then wonder why I lost. I did a lot of reading and research and found that what was best for me was to eat organic, whole foods and stay away from meat, dairy and pop (soda). I don't think I've had fast food in 10 years.
"It all comes down to eating the right things that will give you energy to train. Being an athlete is a job you have to do all the time. For me, it was eating organic. I don't think the answer is in (nutrional) drinks and powders."
Perhaps no one paid more attention to Maynard's advice than EHT junior football player/wrestler Kenny Doughty.
Doughty, who will be the Eagles' starting quarterback in the fall, has done MMA training for the past three years and hopes to begin his amateur career next year.
"What he said made a lot of sense to me," Doughty said. "It must work because he's a heck of an athlete."
Maynard received a standing ovation from the audience after his talk and then gave out autographed pictures to everyone. He also posed for dozens of photos that were scheduled to be posted on Facebook accounts.
He is scheduled to fly back to California later this week before beginning his training for the June 22 fight at AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) in San Jose, Calif. He also is working with strength and conditioning coach Marv Marinovich, the father of former NFL quarterback Todd Marinovich.
"I really enjoy talking to kids," Maynard said. "Kids get pulled in a lot of different directions nowadays. It's cool to be able to help them learn and grow as athletes and people."
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