Photo via Irish Hand Grenade
The last time UFC fans saw Marcus Davis, he was leaving the Octagon with a painfully swollen face after losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 118 in Boston.
Davis, a New England native with a large following in the North East, finally got the opportunity to fight before a home town crowd in the UFC's Boston debut. But his friends and family witnessed three painful rounds as Diaz used his reach advantage to batter Davis.
Early in the first round Davis found a home for his left hand and dropped Diaz, but by the end of round one, Davis's right eye started to show the damage of Diaz's high volume punching. Despite the swelling, the always gritty Davis soldiered on. In the end his blood and guts display of heart wasn't enough to match the accuracy and output of Diaz as the Stockton native ended the fight with a choke. Ever the warrior, Davis bloodied and drowning, refused to tap to the submission, ultimately going out on his shield in front of a crowd that expected nothing less.
After the loss Davis heard the news that UFC lightweight slugger Jeremy Stephens had called him out. When the UFC called to see if Davis wanted to partake, the "Irish Hand Grenade" found himself inspired and set about making his way down to 155 lbs. Dropping a weight class can be a cut and dry dietary change for some fighters but for Davis it was the catalyst to a transformation that will ultimately be unveiled on New Year's Day at UFC 125 in Las Vegas. With the bout just two weeks away I spoke to Marcus Davis and in his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview Davis shared his excitement for his lightweight debut, gave respect to Stephens and reflected on what it was like to finally get the opportunity to fight in Boston.
"First off it was cool to be able to fight in New England, to be that close to home and to have fan support," Davis stated. "It sucks that I wasn't able to win the fight, do what I wanted to do and come out with the victory...but I got to go out there and entertain the fans. Nate and I put on a "Fight of the Night" performance so we were both able to cash in which was nice. I learned a lot and came out of that night a different person. Every time you fight that happens and you learn a little more about yourself. That's the reason I fight and even after 37 years I'm still learning something new about myself every time I go out. I learn more about what I'm capable of and it's just the life of a fighter. You keep fighting...continue to grow and either become a better person because of it or you don't. I feel because of that fight and things that occurred a long the way that I'm a different Marcus today than I was before I fought him."
Nate Diaz is consistently portrayed as a hard edged, streetwise kid from the mean streets of Stockton California. Despite the mean mugging and the middle finger waving mid-fight antics, Diaz himself often times remains quiet and reserved. In the lead up to the fight there was no back and forth banter between opponents and when it came to the dynamic between Davis and Diaz it was all business.
"He did a really good job at implementing a game plan which is what will always make the difference in a fight," Davis answered when asked about Diaz as an opponent. "He was able to do what he needed to do to win the fight and for whatever reasons I wasn't able to implement what I needed to do that night so therefore I came up short. I wouldn't say anything surprised me about Nate because I always knew he was a good kid. As far as his attitude and all that...I've said it before that I understand. I hate to say we come from similar backgrounds because we don't. He's from a much tougher area, a much different life and I don't know what his home life was like but I came from a broken home and I did time as a kid in juvenile detention centers. I made a lot of bad decision and hung out with a lot of bad kids. My mom used to say...as a matter of fact still says to this day that "if you lay down with dogs you're gonna wake up with fleas." I was flea ridden for sure. So I can understand the way he acts some times and the way he's perceived but I'll tell you what...Nate was nice to be before and after the fight and I definitely respect him."
During the bout Davis's right eye started to show signs of damage in the first round. After Diaz connected with a shot that put his glove in contact with Davis in a downward slicing motion a small cut opened up and the eye started to swell around it. The ring side doctor stepped in to examine the cut between the first and second rounds but Davis toughed out the injury and pressed on. After the bout concluded the eye had swollen to a grotesque size and it was unclear how much damage had been done.
"The eye is 100% now," Davis answered when asked about the status of the injury. "I actually had a follow up check up a few weeks back and it's as good as it was before. I'm back to 20/15 vision which is better than the normal everyday person. Obviously at first it was a little scary because I was blind in that eye for the first 24 hours and then after that it was at 20/50 vision and there were a lot of problems. Those are all gone now and I'm healthy. I thank God that I'm able to continue doing what I'm doing. A lot of things have changed for me since then and everybody will see it at the weigh-ins. I don't even look like the same guy and I won't fight like the same guy either. I'm telling you Duane I'm going to surprise some people that night. I've already gone through the shock and surprise of seeing how much my body and everything's changed. There is a big difference now in how healthy I feel but unfortunately there isn't much I can do about my face," Davis laughed.
Marcus then continued, "I'm gonna get cut. I'm gonna get beat up. Thank God my wife says that I get sexier and sexier with every new scar I get so I'm gonna look really good by the time I'm my UFC career is over...at least to her anyways. I'm going to get cut that night...I know that and it's a foregone conclusion. I'm going to be in that fight as everybody knows and he's going to have to knock me out or choke me out to get me out of there. I'm not tapping...it's just not happening. I'm going out there, we are going to fight and the better man is coming out with the victory. I'm taking this kid (Stephens) as serious as I've taken any of my other opponents. I've watched a lot of tape on him and know that he is a powerful, aggressive striker. I know that he can wrestle a little bit and these are all things I've planned for. The question is what does he think of me and who shows up that night. It doesn't matter what I've been doing in the gym or the asses I've been kicking this entire camp, what's going to matter is what I do that night inside the cage. It's going to come down to who executes that night at this level."
Up next for Davis is a showdown with lightweight slugger Jeremy Stephens who showed extreme frustration in the aftermath of his most recent bout against Melvin Guillard at UFC 119. Throughout the fight it was Guillard, who typically employs a hard charging and powerful style that decided to implement a drastically different game plan as he stayed out of range. The bout was largely panned and a fight that UFC President Dana White donned the early favorite for "Fight of the Night" turned into something he publically apologized for on his twitter account. Following the bout Stephens personally requested to face Marcus Davis because he wanted to be matched up with an opponent who was going to bring the scrap head on.
"I think my strengths in this fight are my technique, movement, speed and my overall experience will be a big factor," Davis remarked when breaking down the matchup. "He brings in youth, aggression, confidence and strength...he's a strong kid and the dude's ripped as shit. He's built like a fighter and you are going to see two guys in there that do their job. It's a great matchup and I'm glad he asked for it. I'm glad the UFC asked me to do it because I feel it's going to be an excellent fight. I think Jeremy is a great guy and we have a lot of similarities. We've been stuck in the airport together before so we've had the chance to talk on several occasions and we both approach this game the same way. He's a fighter...he looks at like a job and he knows it's his job to go out there and entertain. Win or lose you know that if you watch Jeremy Stephens in a fight he's going to try to put it all on the line and he's going to try to entertain everybody. That's our job and when I'm fighting somebody who is like that or see somebody who is like that I respect them. I respect him as a person and for his skills. I'm looking at the fight with Stephens like I did against Chris Lytle. I'm looking at him with a lot of respect and I'm excited to get this thing going."
No one has ever accused Marcus Davis or Jeremy Stephens of putting on a boring performance. They are a breed of fighter cut from a unique mold as both approach combat from similar aspects and are a guaranteed show when their names are on the event card. With that being said there has been a lot of talk this past year in regards to those fighters who go out to exact a safe game plan as opposed to those going out to finish opponents. With recent fighter releases the pressure to win is front and center and where fighters like Davis find it as second nature, others competitors have to work excitement into a game plan designed for safety.
"I think it is an individual thing," Davis replied when asked to share his thoughts on the matter. "I think each fighter is treated as individual in the UFC's eyes. There are fighters that go out there, lay it all on the line...try to finish and sometimes come up short. Whether they have six wins or six losses, the UFC doesn't care because they are entertaining. Those are guys like Chris Lytle...like myself now, like Jeremy Stephens who has some losses on his record, we are that breed of fighter. That's what were there for and that's what they use us for. The UFC puts us out there to entertain people. Then you have the other guys who fight as safe as they can, always game plan and don't worry about the entertainment value. They only worry about winning those are the guys currently in the Top 10. Georges St. Pierre is that way. St. Pierre fights the same way every time and in every fight he uses all long weapons. Georges will always use a jab, a lead leg kick because it's his closest leg and it keeps him the furthest distance from his opponent. He has rarely thrown rear hands or legs and as soon as you close the distance within his jab or kicks...he shoots. That's the way he plays it and that's the safety in what he does because he does not like to be stuck within hands reach. He doesn't like to be stuck in a boxing game or a clinch fight against the cage. If he has to be in the clinch he likes it to be on the ground or if the fight is standing he likes to keep it way outside. So you have those kind of guys who play that game it's true. Every fighter has their own style and the UFC makes it known that if you're going to play that safe style then you better keep a winning record the entire time. But if you are going out there to put it all on the line they will let you have a 50/50 record or the occasional losing streak because in their eyes you are giving the fans what they pay to see and in that fashion you're doing your job."
When Marcus Davis speaks about his decision to drop down a weight class into the lightweight division he become noticeably excited. A veteran of the sport who has been in many battles inside of the cage, Davis has become reinvigorated with the changes that have occurred due to his decision to fight at 155 lbs. While the welterweight division was competitive, the 155 lb. weight class has become somewhat of a free for all due in large part to the shake up that resulted with long time champion B.J. Penn being dethroned. In "The Prodigy's" absence there has been a race to establish dominance and Davis is excited about his chance to enter the fray.
"It's funny you ask that because honestly I don't know yet," Davis answered in regards to what his goals will be at lightweight. "I'm still evolving and I really don't know. I can tell you what I'm looking for to and that's not being at a six inch reach disadvantage minimum every time I get in the cage. I'm looking forward to maybe being a little taller than one of my opponents and being able to keep somebody at the end of my jab. That's what I'm looking forward to in addition to being physical with these guys. I'm going to make 55 but you know damn well that when we get into that octagon and start going at it, I'm not going to be even close to that weight. It's going to be cool to be a bigger guy for a change rather than always being the smallest guy in the division with the shortest reach."
Davis will make his official debut as a lightweight at UFC 125 in Las Vegas. Less than a week ago the WEC hosted its final card and now the merger brings another crop of fighters officially under the UFC banner. The merger would not have affected Davis but his drop to lightweight now means that there is the possibility that Davis will face one of the former WEC fighters down the road.
"I think it will help the division just because it will be more competition and the fan base will grow a bit. I mean we are pulling in the WEC fans which were pretty much already the same fans we have now but there are some that weren't. I'm not worried about it. I'm already in the UFC and the competition is tough as it is so throwing in more people will make it better. It really doesn't matter to me," Davis replied. "The UFC can call me tomorrow and say "Hey Marcus...for your next matchup you are going to be fighting a grizzly bear." I would just say, "What weight is it at? Is he wearing a mouthpiece? Will he be wearing gloves," those kind of questions. Then I would get in shape and show up and fight that grizzly bear. Because that's my job...that's what I get paid for and when you have four kids, three in private schools and one in college and you pay the bill for all of it...you fight bears if you have to."
When the announcement came that Davis was dropping down to lightweight there was an additional portion of the statement that created a bit of a stir. Davis specifically stated that we was going to finish his career in the weight class and retirement talk began popped up in regards to the fight against Stephens possible being the final fight of Davis's career.
"Let me tell you something. At the time when I said that after the Diaz fight...even before the Diaz fight, I kept telling myself that I just needed to make it for another year or two...at least just one more year at the very least. Now after the things that have changed and switching to a primary care physician...everything that has happened, things have changed. So much has happened and I really don't want to get into it and share the details with everyone but there was a switch flipped inside of me. This happened about six weeks ago and it flipped from thinking about how I can get as much money as I possibly can in two years, build my name, build my gyms and getting out to I'm going to make a run at 155 lbs. I'm going to go in there and dominate some people to show everyone that I'm not going anywhere. That's what it has switched to. It went from trying to survive in this sport and hold onto my job to no more worries. I can't control that stuff. I'm healthy and I feel great. I'm ready to fight and I want to make a run at entertaining everybody and shocking some people. When my fight is over I want Joe Rogan to come into that octagon, look at me and say "Who are you?"
Davis finished the interview by giving something back to the people that matter the most to him as he said, "Anybody that supports me, I hate to say fans I'd rather say supporters and the people who are out there doing that I want them to know that I truly love you. I hope you have a safe and responsible holiday and New Years. Please stay tuned to watch the Irish Hand Grenade 2.0 version that is going to be coming out on the first of the year. I hope everybody likes what they see and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support."