Eric "Bighead" Davila is an unheralded veteran welterweight based out of Lubbock, Texas. He started his career in 1998 and has squared off with top opponents like Matt Hughes, Benji Radoch as well as former Ultimate Fighter contestants Lodune Sincaid and Jesse Taylor. Eric is known for his toughness, having never been knocked out in his nearly 13 year career.
While many may not know Eric, he will be squaring off with UFC veteran Pete Spratt in the opening fight of this Saturday's Shark Fights 13 event. You can view his fight live on Sherdog.com's live video stream of the undercard. Eric took the time out of his day to be a guest on my inaugural radio show The Verbal Submission and he really opened up with some great stories and personal experiences he's had throughout his career. Enjoy.
Brian Hemminger: You started your MMA career in 1998, but there's not a ton of information out there on you when I was trying to look up info for our interview. We're gonna try to change that tonight, alright?
Eric Davila: Yeah, alright. I'm holding nothing back. Anything you wanna know, I gotcha.
BH: This will actually be your 7th fight with Shark Fights. You've had a 4-2 record with them. You fought on Shark Fights 1,2,3 and 4, you won the first three. How has your time with Shark Fights been and how does it feel to be a guy that they think can consistently perform on their event cards?
ED: It's a good thing for me man, it's a local promotion and I always love to fight locally because my family and my fanbase are here in west Texas. I haven't been to the big show just yet, you know, it's just one of those things it's management, you have to have a good manager and the opportunity and I haven't had that opportunity just yet. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't. I've been in this game quite a bit to be proud of what I've done in my career so if I do make it to the big show that's great but if I don't, I don't.
BH: Does it feel good to see Shark Fights really expanding, trying to make a big statement signing all these bigger name fighters?
ED: It does to a certain extent, but you know, with it being all just a big name card it's like they're picking certain guys out of west Texas to try to make a move. Pretty much the best guys out of west Texas to go show their mettle, what they're made of with those guys that are in that league. It kind of takes away from the local guys and it doesn't show them much exposure. Like Pete said, I haven't been on the undercard since shoot, I don't know when, it's been a while. Me and him are the first fight of the night and I'm thinking "wow, really?"
BH: Well the good thing is that the entire undercard of this fight event Shark Fights 13 will be steamed live on Sherdog.com so anybody can watch it anywhere. Does that add any pressure to this fight since you'll likely be seen by a larger audience?
ED: Oh no. I've been streamed live on Sherdog before for promotions like 51-50 Combat out of Oklahoma so it's not any extra pressure.
BH: Alright, well I was reading through a couple interviews you've had to get a little more information on you and you said that when you were growing up in Lubbock, Texas that fighting was second nature to you. Can you explain that a little bit?
ED: Well it was my upbringing, you know. Single parent home, father in and out of prison. It was kinda one of those things in the barrios in Lubbock, you know, it was a fight type thing. Fighting in the streets, gang related area, especially here in Lubbock, Texas. That was just a part of life, it was second nature to me. I had a lot of little street fights when I was younger.
BH: This is a similar question I asked with Pete (Spratt), but you guys have a friendly relationship. Is it difficult sometimes to put the fight business before friendships or do things like that not matter when the cage doors close.
ED: Well I think it really doesn't matter but you know, it kinda bothered me when they brought that to my attention. I told them "Well, have you talked to Pete about it?" and they were like "Yeah, he's all for it!" How much of that is true? We'll never know, it is part of the business so I was like "Well, ok. Let's go ahead and do this." You know, I've got a friendship with Pete, and he gets along with my family. I invited him to the gym like you said and I respect Pete a lot, man. He's been to the show, he's accomplished a little more than what I have in my career and I'll always have much respect for Pete. But it is a business, this is the way we feed our families.
I'm sure Pete's upbringing wasn't much different than mine. You have to put food on the table when it comes to your family and we both understand that. We both know that we when get in that cage, we're gonna put on the best show possible and when the better man wins, it's really not the better man that wins because you know, Pete's a great guy I'm a great guy too. At the end of the fight, we're still gonna be great friends and we're still gonna see him down in San Antonio because I've got family there and I'm sure the invites will be there too. I don't think anything will change after it.
BH: Pete's a real dangerous striker, and Georges St. Pierre even said that he had MMA's nastiest leg kicks. What are you doing to prepare for striking with him?
ED: Well I trained out of Greg Jackson's for my camp so that's two fights I've trained out of Greg's with "Cowboy" Cerrone and Leonard "Bad Boy" Garcia at the Tapout Ranch and I also train up there with Melvin Guillard and KJ was gonna be there. Joey (Villasenor) was there to train with me. Donald (Cerrone) himself is really good with striking. He has a hard kick, you know, same thing I know Pete is one of the hardest kickers in the game. I think that's another reason they paired me and Pete up. I'm known for being a little hard-headed when it comes to that. I've been in the ring with some good strikers and I've taken a lot of punches and I've taken a lot of kicks and, you know, I'm kinda like a little energizer bunny, I just keep on going. I think that's why they matched us up with each other. Pete loves to strike, and I'm hard-headed. Hopefully I don't have to take too many big kicks from Pete, but I know they're gonna be coming and we'll see how it turns out (laughs).
BH: I saw a news report about you going out to Los Angeles to try out as a middleweight on The Ultimate Fighter season 11. Can you tell us a little bit about that process and your experiences?
ED: Yeah, that was actually my first tryout. In 2009, I fought at nothing but 185. I fought 8 times that year, went 6-2 for the year. I lost to Jesse Taylor and Alex "El Toro" Andrade from Bellator. With the tryout, man, it really, to me, it was an experience. Did I like the experience? Not really man, because when you actually try out they give you like 2 minutes to grapple. You've got 300 guys all trying for the same thing and it's kinda like they just pick and choose who they want, you know? I mean, they passed two guys that I already beat on my record. One, who actually got into the house Cleburn Walker, he got taken out in the first round by that Kris (McCray) guy, with the shoulder injury . I beat him (Walker) in 55 seconds but, I did get to talkto Dana (White) after they passed me on to the interview part of it.
Dana was like "well, you need experience Eric" and I'm like "are you sure about that? Sherdog has me down at like 19-10 or 17-10 but they don't have all my fights on there. I'm really closer to 31-10." He was like "Ohhhh, you're the one with all the experience" and Joe Silva was sitting behind him on the computer and he goes "yeah he just TKO'd Lodune Sincaid"
Dana then turned to me and says "Well Eric, I just don't think you're heavy enough. You're probably not even 200 lbs right now". I was like "Yeah, I'm 200 lbs" and he goes "I'll bet you $50 that you're not 200 lbs" and I said "It's a bet!" so he actually got his producers to go find him a weight scale and I stepped on the scale there at 200 even and he gave me $100.
He goes "Well, you're too small for the 185ers, I want you at 170 or 155" so I was like "yeah, alright!" It was a good feeling. So I've had a chance to talk to the guys up there and it's good to know where he wants me at. So again, I did one more fight at 185 and then I decided to switch back down to 170 and like Pete said, he warmed me up for my first fight at 170 against Anselmo Martinez for Shark Fights and uh Pete will be my second fight back at 170. We'll see next year if I'll be able to make it down to 155 but I don't think my head will let me get down to 55 (laughs).
BH: Haha, I've actually got some questions about that head. You're nickname is Bighead and I've seen some pictures and videos now, that thing is enormous! Do you have to buy like special baseball caps or anything?
ED: Oh yeah, I don't even get fitted caps. I try to get Flex-alls and I think I stretch those out too.
BH: Do you ever get worried that you're presenting a bigger target for your opponents?
ED: Oh, I already know it's a big target. Of course they're gonna hit it. I just kinda gotta embrace my flaw and try to make the best of it and so far so good. It's worked ok for me (laughs).
BH: Ok, last serious question. From 2002 to 2007 you took a 5 year break from MMA to help your wife. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
ED: Yeah, I moved to Denver actually. The manager down there was taking a look at me and I was planning on making the move down to Denver but then my wife had gotten sick on me. I had to explain to him (the manager) that I was gonna move down south to a place about 30 minutes from San Antonio which is a lot closer to her mother and father and she had cancer in her ovaries. So for 5 years we were moved down there and there weren't really any MMA gyms in the San Antonio area. I think Pete was maybe in Dallas at the time.
There were a couple MMA gyms, but nobody at the caliber that I needed to pursue the career. So I just ended up getting two jobs. Me and my wife lived together we have 7 kids so yeah, just to keep food on the table and get her through her surgery, get her well again. Five years later she was cancer free and we decided that I needed to move back up to west Texas and get back in the gym, back to training and get closer to a local promotion that was kinda gonna boost me up and get me fighting again. That's pretty much in a nutshell what happened. I moved back here to Lubbock, started training again, started fighting again, and here I am, still doing what I'm doing.
BH: That's an awesome story. I think I read that your wife actually used to fight a little bit.
ED: Yeah, when I first started my career back with the USWF. We were actually, we lived in Amarillo for 7 years and that was my hometown for a while. Lubbock is my hometown, but Amarillo is where I started my career. My wife actually fought on the first card that I did. We were the first husband and wife team, actually married team to be on the same fight card in a shoot fight and you can check with Eddie Goldman about that. She did well, she won her fight and I won mine.
It's funny because she actually did it to convince me not to fight anymore and I guess that backfired. So here we are, what 13 years later, still doing it.
BH: Another great story, I think that's everything I had for you. Do you have any shoutouts for any sponsors or trainers, or anyone you want to thank?
ED: I just want to thank Al Kozino, we just started our new gym Big Head MMA here in Lubbock. To all my students and all of the fighters that we manage, you know we love them very much. To my local sponsors, Clear Top, Tequila Jungle, Super Tech Automotive and Jorge's Mexican restaurant in Amarilla. If you ever go to Amarillo to watch some fights, check out Jorge's. And my chiropractor here in Lubbock, Dr. Buchanan keeping me straight and lined up. And of course, my wife. Without her, you know, there's always a strong woman behind every good man and she's kept me going all these good years and a big thank you to you guys for having me.