ATLANTIC CITY - Having diffused a potentially hairy situation, UFC lightweight contenders Clay Guida and Gray Maynard are now focusing on what promises to be an thrilling fight at Revel on Friday night.
Their five-round bout is the main event of a 13-fight card that represents the UFC's first event in Atlantic City in seven years. They agreed to fight each other three months ago but then had to clear up an issue involving Guida's curly, shoulder-length locks.
For the first time in his 39-fight mixed martial arts career, Guida will be required to braid his hair for the fight as the result of a protest filed with the New Jersey Athletic Control Board, the state's governing body for contact sports.
"I really didn't have much to do with it," Maynard said after a brief workout at Revel on Wednesday. "I let my (managers and trainers) handle that stuff. I'm a fighter. I fight. I don't worry about that other stuff."
Maynard's handlers initially phoned Control Board commissioner Aaron Davis and legal counsel Nicholas Lembo out of concern that Guida's hair could prove to be a distraction. They then followed up with a written appeal.
They were prepared to take action in the form of a hearing before the Control Board when Davis and Lembo contacted Guida's camp about wearing braids. Lembo said Wednesday that Guida was "less than 100 percent" behind the move but eventually agreed.
"Sometimes I put my hair up in a ponytail when I train, but I've never been asked to do anything like that for a fight," Guida said after a workout Wednesday at Revel. "I'm not even thinking about it anymore. This fight is going to be more about heart than hair."
Both fighters said they were thrilled to be part of the UFC's first appearance in Atlantic City since UFC 53 was held at Boardwalk Hall on June 4, 2005 and to be competing in the first sporting event to be held in Revel's Ovation Hall.
Since first opening its doors in early April, Revel has hosted a few concerts. Most notably, Beyonce performed four sold-out shows over Memorial Day Weekend.
Maynard even got into the spirit by sporting tattoos on his chest that featured a pair of dice under the inscriptions "One Life" and "Roll The Dice."
"I got the dice because I knew I was coming to Atlantic City," Maynard said jokingly. "This is a great town with the beach and the Boardwalk, and the Revel is fantastic. I'm not surprised Beyonce played here. We're friends from back in the day."
Maynard (11-1-1) was joking about Beyonce, but he and Guida (29-9) actually are friends.
Guida, who trains in Albuquerque, N.M., recalled visiting St. Louis in March for the NCAA Division I wrestling championships, when he accidently ran into Maynard. Days later, they signed to fight one another.
"There were hundreds of thousands of people walking around St. Louis and Gray was the one person I bumped into," Guida said. "It was pretty funny. We laughed and hugged. I consider him a friend. But that won't prevent me from trying to take his head off Friday night, and I'm sure he'll be trying to do the same thing to me."
Both fighters possess the power and durability to end the fight with one punch or grind out a five-round decision.
Maynard, 33, is 8-1-1 in the UFC. He reeled off eight straight victories - a streak that included a decision win over former UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, of Toms River - before going 0-1-1 in two more fights with Edgar.
Guida, 30, is 7-3 in his last 10 fights. He is coming off a decision loss to current UFC champ Ben Henderson.
"I'd say that Clay and I are both near the top (of the lightweight division)," Maynard said. "Clay is a crazy guy and a very tough fighter. It's going to be a good scrap on Friday night."
Punchlines: Atlantic City native Gasper Oliver will make his UFC debut as a referee Friday. He will be officiating two of the undercard fights. ... Egg Harbor Township resident Jose Tabora, owner of Bullpen Vale Tudo, a martial-arts gym in EHT, will serve as a judge for Guida-Maynard and several undercard bouts.
The weigh-ins will be held today at Ovation Hall starting at 4 p.m. and are open to the public. Doors to the Hall on Friday open at 4 p.m. with the first undercard fight slated for 5 p.m. The first two bouts will be shown online at Facebook.com/UFC. Six will be aired on FUEL TV. FX will start its coverage at 9 p.m.
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