Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (14-4) has got a lot to say about Paul "Tellys" Kelly (7-0). And he’s got something to prove, too.
He’ll get his chance this Saturday, October 18, when the two square off at The National Indoor Arena (NIA) in Birmingham, England. It airs for free on SpikeTV, starting at 9:00 p.m ET.
We caught up with Marcus last week to ask him about his thoughts on Kelly (and there’s a lot of them), his constantly evolving ground game, how he got involved in mixed martial arts in the first place (he even had a hand in introducing Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia to the sport), his fighter’s pedigree (the guy comes from a long line of fighters), and how badly he wants a rematch with Mike "Quick" Swick.
Suffice it to say, the guy sounds about as pumped up for a fight as I’ve heard in a long while. He's fired up. Let's get to it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You injured your shoulder against Mike Swick at UFC 85 back in June. I read that this was caused from weight training. Is that right?
Marcus Davis: Yeah.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): What happened there, was it a rotator cuff or something?
Marcus Davis: No, well three weeks before the Swick fight, I had been lifting weights really heavily. Actually, I was on this kick for a little while. But specifically before the Mike Swick fight, I got on a big-time weightlifting kick where I thought, because Mike was coming down from such a weight, that I had to be so beefy and get all big. I got up to where I was pushing about 200 pounds in just body weight. I was lifting all the time.
I was lifting just ridiculous amounts of weight and putting a lot of pressure on my joints and my body. I ended up tearing the connective tissue between where your biceps, your rear delt and your lat all kinda meet.
So I went to the doctors about three weeks before the fight, and they gave me a cortisone injection to try to help me get through. And of course, once I felt like it didn’t hurt anymore, I went back to the weight room and was throwing the weights around and doing all the same stuff I was doing.
What ended up happening was I ended up getting an impingement where my bursa sac swelled like 100 times more than it was supposed to be. With the impingement, the bursa sac and those tears, the bursa sac was pushing everything out, pushing all the tendons and ligaments outward.
When it got to be about two weeks away from the fight, the UFC sent me to an orthopedic doctor who did a guided needle with an ultrasound into my shoulder and drained the bursa sac, but they couldn’t give me any medicine for the impingement of the tears at that point, because they were worried if I got, you know, drug tested. So they ended up draining it with a needle, drained the bursa sac.
I went back to the hotel, and about three and a half hours later, I couldn’t even move my arm again. So they brought me back the day of the weigh-in to the doctor, and he said that the needle had aggravated the bursa sac, and it just refilled again. So they drained it again, but once again the bursa sac just filled up and pushed everything out again.
So we just had to completely come up with a whole one-armed man game plan kinda, and try to figure out how we were going to go through that fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): So that had to have impacted your performance for that fight?
Marcus Davis: Yeah, it impacted my performance, and it got into my head, and it bothered me, obviously going in.
The whole plan that we kept working on, we called it "default right hook," which just meant that in any exchange that I got into with Mike Swick — whether or not he threw a right hand, a left hand, or whatever he threw — I would start all my combinations off with a lead right hook, and then come back with my left hand, whether it was a straight hand or an uppercut or whatever, depending on where he was.
Even working everything off, if I was gonna block his kicks, I was gonna come in with a right hand … everything was based off my lead right hook. So we had to turn, and that was another reason why that shoulder ended up taking so much abuse was from the weightlifting, which did the tears, and then I kept using it over and over again in training, using the right hook.
Yeah, it changed a lot of things. But the good thing that comes out of it is that I went into a fight that, you know, I just kinda went in with that losing attitude to begin with. I was hurt, and knowing that Mike Swick was somebody who was ranked in the Top 10 at 185 pounds with wins over guys like Joe Riggs and (David) Loiseau and the guys who he fought up there, and that it was going to be a real tough fight. But he couldn’t stop me. He passed my guard one time — he never passed my guard again — and, like I said, he couldn’t stop me, even in that shape I was in.
And so going into the fight that I’ve got coming up, this kid is no Mike Swick. This kid has never fought anybody like I have. He’s only got nine professional fights. I’m taller, I have a longer reach, I’m faster, I’m a better puncher, I’m a better kicker, I’m a better wrestler, I’m a better submission guy. I’ve got more submissions and more KOs on my record than he does fights. So, I’m pretty confident going into this fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): What weight do you normally walk around at? You had said that you were getting up there toward 200.
Marcus Davis: Yeah, I was. Back at that time, I was walking around at about 185 to 190 normal walk-around weight, when I’m not in heavy training camp, and I might be just lifting weights a little bit. Like at this time, right now at this time*, close to the fight, I was 194.
* (NOTE: This interview was conducted on Thursday, October 9 — nine days removed from weigh-ins.)
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): (whistles)
Marcus Davis: Yeah, only 10 days out, I was like 194. And I cut down from there to 170. ‘Cause I figured that I needed to be that big and that strong — I figured that’s the same thing Mike Swick was doing too, so. I let it get into my head.
Whereas this kid too, (Paul Kelly) is a bigger kid. He’s a pretty beefy kid. But right now, I’m walking around at 177, which is a huge difference.
And it’s because I haven’t touched any weights since then. I’m going to look physically different. I’m gonna look a lot leaner. I’m not doing the weight training. I’ve got Kevin Kearns has been doing all of my strength and conditioning, which is the same guy who works with Kenny Florian. And that’s it. I’m doing that, and I’m doing my fight training.
Right now I’ve been training with Jorge Gurgel, who’s here now at Sityodtong too, part of the team; Kenny Florian; Mark DellaGrotte, obviously; Patrick Cote’s here getting ready for Anderson Silva; Din Thomas was here, he just left a little while ago; and then we got a lot of guys who are Sityodtong guys who all have fights coming up. So this was a really good training camp for me.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I wanted to ask you a little bit about that mental aspect of the game. With the loss to Swick, you had been on an 11-fight win streak — six of which were inside the Octagon. I don’t think you had lost since like late 2005, something like that. As you’re trying to climb that ladder and get a title shot, how much of this recent set back is mental? How much of that is mental for you to overcome that and get back to your winning ways?
Marcus Davis: It doesn’t really affect me in that kinda way. I think it’s because I don’t have the expectations of winning championship belts. I know a lot of fighters fight because they want to be champions and they want to win belts. I’m not in this for that reason. I fight because it’s the only thing that I’m meant to do. That’s it.
Since I was a baby, that’s all I’ve ever done. I started training when I was 8. I was very young. I come from a fighter’s pedigree — some guys don’t do that. Both of my grandfathers boxed. One of my grandfathers was a professional boxer. He had over 60 fights. I have uncles that all fought. It’s just in my blood. That’s why I fight.
I don’t even think about frickin’ titles and whatever. I don’t care, I just like fightin’.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Obviously you started out as a boxer. I used to know your professional boxing record, but I kinda forget it right offhand. I think it was like 17-1 or something.
Marcus Davis: Yep.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): But a lot of folks, when they’re comparing the guys who came from the TUF background, a lot of them mention you as one of the most improved fighters overall since your days on TUF.
I wanted to ask you a bit about the work that you’ve done in wrestling and jiu-jitsu — not so much boxing, since that’s where you came from — but wrestling and jiu-jitsu to improve your overall game, and maybe even some of the opponents who you’ve faced who ended up improving your overall game based on the challenges that you faced there.
Marcus Davis: Well, I started first after the show. I built up a friendship with Jorge Gurgel when we were on the show.
So I flew out there a few times, and I stayed with Jorge — he gave me a room at his place out there. And Jorge just taught me, got me to be comfortable and not freak out about being on my back on the ground. He started drilling escapes with me, showing me proper positioning and stuff, and just making me feel comfortable.
Then doing that, I ended up being taught wrestling from a guy named Garth Crane, who was a former Canadian wrestler, an unbelievable Canadian wrestler. I believe he was an alternate on the Canadian Olympic team. So I started wrestling with him all the time, and he became my student as far as MMA goes. He actually runs one of my gyms in Bangor.
So I started wrestling with Garth and started doing all of my jiu-jitsu with Jorge. So then my manager said, "You know what, I’m going to start booking matches with strikers, but I don’t want you to strike with them. All the strikers, I want you to take them down, and I want you to submit them." He said, "Let’s make them think you’re going to strike, and you take them down and submit them."
So I said, "All right." And that’s what I started doing. I started just taking guys down and submitting them, and that’s why it shows all those submissions on my record all of a sudden — it just goes submission, submission, submission, decision, submission, submission, or whatever. It was because we were purposely settin’ ‘em up that way to try to submit guys and make me feel comfortable on the ground.
So then by the time I got the call back in to the UFC, and I fought Forrest Petz, you know, that was our plan. Our plan was to do something nobody else was doing with Forrest Petz. At the time, he was 18-2, and he was walking through guys. He walked through Sammy Morgan like he was nothing.
So we decided we were going to make him back up, and I was going to try to get him to the ground and finish him there. And I ended up finishing him when he tried to escape, when I passed and I went to side mount, he took an underhook and tried to escape, and he left his neck exposed, and I caught his neck. Kinda the same way that Nogueira did with Tim Sylvia, when Tim Sylvia took the underhook and went — kinda the same idea a little bit … just not as pretty, I guess.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): (Laughs)
Marcus Davis: But that’s how I did it, you know, I just got more and more confident. After that, I started training at Sityodtong, which is where we’re at now. And I started working with Keith Florian and Kenny Florian and all the other jiu-jitsu guys that were down here.
I got a chance to workout with all kinds of guys that come through here: Fabio Holanda was here, he’s coming back here again this Saturday; still I got Jorge here now … so I’ve just been able to, because of The Ultimate Fighter, it’s opened up opportunities and doors for me to train with people who I couldn’t have trained with before.
Now I’m at that point in my career where I don’t mind fighting anywhere. Doesn’t matter to me if it’s on the ground, if somebody wants to trade some kicks, elbows, it doesn’t matter.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Did you ever head out to train with Team Miletich?
Marcus Davis: I used to be with them, yeah.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Okay. I was wondering, because it mentions that on Sherdog — it says that you’re with them — but I didn’t think that you were with them anymore.
Marcus Davis: No, I’m not. This is kinda the way this all kinda went down. Back in 1995, I ran a nightclub. One of my doormen was Tim Sylvia. He couldn’t fight, couldn’t walk, couldn’t anything. So I started teaching him how to punch.
So like three days a week and every weekend, I would meet with Tim and some other guys, and I would teach them — you know, because I was a professional boxer at the time — teach them how to punch.
We were doing a lot of street fighting stuff ‘cause I was involved with JKD at the time, I was training with a guy named Joe Maffei down here at Waltham, Massachusetts. But I was a Jeet Kune Do practitioner, so my grappling skills were very, very, very limited. But my other things like, the punching, the kneeing, the kicking, the trapping, and all that stuff I did a lot for like street kinda stuff.
So I was teaching that, and Tim wanted to start doing some of the Pancrase ones that they had — the open-hand slapping things. So he competed in a couple of those. And then we went to a UFC event in New Jersey, and Pat Miletich was there. Pat came over to (Tim) and said, "You’re a big guy, how’d you like to be a sparring partner?" And Tim said, "Sure." And he flew out to Iowa, and came home like a couple weeks later and said, "I’m moving there permanently."
So when Tim moved out there, I shot over and stayed with Tim a little bit and trained with everybody out there, and started fightin’ for the team. Pat worked my corner for a few of my first pro fights. Tony "The Freak" Fryklund, back then, when he was there, he came over, because he was actually from Boston too. He came over and worked some of my fights. So that’s how I got involved with Team Miletich.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Okay. I had no idea it dated back so long ago.
Marcus Davis: Yeah, I didn’t end up over at Team Miletich, though, until like 2002, so much later. But I had the bar in ’95, and I trained Tim until ’99, and then Tim ended up doing the Iowa thing. It was right after Tim beat Ricco Rodriguez (at UFC 41, back in February 2003). I was there at that event live, and saw him beat Ricco Rodriguez and win the Heavyweight championship.
I wasn’t doing MMA at the time. When Tim came out, I started talking to him, and was like, "Dude, if you can do this, I can do this." I said, "I want to come train with you guys." So that’s how it all started.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I want to talk briefly about Paul Kelly. His last fight — his only fight in the UFC — was against Paul Taylor at UFC 80 back in January. It was entertaining, but in the end, it just seemed like his wrestling and his ground and pound was just too much for Taylor. Taylor couldn’t get up after Kelly took him down.
From that fight — and that’s the only fight I’ve seen of his — it seems like his boxing’s okay, but his whole game kinda centers around that whole take-you-down-and-smash-your-face-in thing, once you’re on the ground. What’s your take on it? How do you see his strengths measuring up to yours?
Marcus Davis: I see him — other than maybe physical strength because of me not weight lifting and stuff — but I see him losing in every single category that there is for this fight.
If you watched that fight again, if you got off the phone with me, and you watch that Paul Taylor fight … watch it. Does he actually ever perform a real takedown in that whole fight? Watch it. He doesn’t. He never does.
People think that he took Paul Taylor down and that he was beating him up on the ground from takedowns. Paul Taylor took himself down. Paul Taylor made some bad decisions. Paul Taylor jumped guard for a guillotine. Paul Taylor kicked him, and (Kelly) caught the leg, and (Taylor) kinda jumped once again into guard.
He made a lot of mistakes. Paul (Kelly) did not take one shot in that fight. He didn’t shoot once. He clinched with him one time, and he did this horrible, like, trip — tried to — and it was like a huge, like, very, very novice, beginner-type effort to try to take somebody down.
People don’t realize yet, people have maybe only seen me do it a couple times, because I’ve been kinda reserved with it. But one time that you could look at is when I fought Pete Spratt, and we got belly-to-belly, and I threw Pete Spratt down to the ground. I’ve thrown a few people that way. My takedowns are much better than what people think they are.
And if (Paul Kelly) clinches with me, I guarantee if we clinch, he’s the one that’s going down, not me. My takedowns are better.
I also got Paul Taylor on the ground, but Paul Taylor didn’t get back up with me, either. I took him down, and I finished the fight. I didn’t just stay in his guard and chip away at him. I was in his guard, I punched him in his face, I stood up, I passed his guard, I took side mount, I mounted him, I pounded him in his face from mount, he gave me his back, and I armbarred him.
(Paul Kelly) didn’t show those tools. He showed somebody who was just willing to sit in somebody’s guard and just try to bang away a victory.
I tried to finish that fight the whole time, and that’s what I’ll do in this (fight). If he stands up with me, he’s going to be too slow to catch me. I’m going to be on the outside, he’s not going to be able to reach me. I’ve got a longer reach, I know how to use it, I know how to fight from angles — he doesn’t. He’ll be flat-footed, I’ll be dancing around, pecking away at him.
He’s never thrown a kick in his whole career. I throw kicks all the time now. All I’ve been doing is my Thai — I actually just got my first level of Thai training certificate from Mark DellaGrotte. My Thai boxing is looking great.
I’m gonna out-punch him, I’m gonna out-kick him, I’m gonna out-takedown him, I’m gonna out-grapple him. And if by chance — by chance — he does get me on my back, I’ll submit him.
The mistake that he made with Paul Taylor, by putting his hand on the mat and stuff, and Paul Taylor being able to almost get him in a kimura … I’ll tell ya what, if I lock on to that arm like Paul Taylor did, that arm’s coming back to the U.S. with me. He’s not getting it back.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): (Laughs) Man, you sound pumped.
Marcus Davis: Oh yeah, I do got something that I gotta prove. I worked my way up, and I fought that Swick fight, and because I wasn’t able to fight the way I should’ve fought and I could’ve fought, everybody’s bumping me back onto the back burner again.
But the thing is, I can be competitive with anybody. If I’m 100%, I can be competitive with anybody, because I’ve got just enough tools to survive, but I got more power punches that I can stop anybody off even a glancing blow. I can glance somebody in the side of the head and put ‘em on the ground. All my training partners here right now would attest to that, that I’ve got a lot of power in my hands. That’s the way it is, I’ve always got that puncher’s chance.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Are you stoked about heading back overseas to fight?
Marcus Davis: Yeah, I like fighting over there a lot. I enjoy the ability to look around and see new places. People over there seem to be pretty happy and outgoing. The fans are very passionate about the sport, and they keep it like it’s a sporting event with sportsmanship-like conduct. I don’t get spit on, I don’t get things thrown at me.
I’m used to being the bad guy in places, so I’ve been the bad guy every place I’ve gone. I fought Shonie Carter on a Marine base — he was a Marine. I fought Pete Spratt in Houston — he’s from Houston. I’ve been going around and fighting people in their hometown, and in the U.S. I’ve been treated much more poorly than I have in the U.K. when I’ve gone and fought guys in their own backyard. So I do enjoy fighting over there.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Yeah, well this will make it like your fifth fight or something like that over there, won’t it?
Marcus Davis: Something like that, I think.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You’re like the UFC’s American ambassador to the U.K.
Marcus Davis: I love it. I like it a lot over there. I actually have been looking for property over there too, so I’m planning on getting a home over there someplace. I haven’t decided where, but I’m looking.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Last question: Would you like to have a rematch with Swick sometime down the road?
Marcus Davis: Yeah, I would. I already mentioned it, and I was told that it all depends on what happens. If he keeps winning, and I keep winning, then yeah, at some point we could meet. But if I keep winning, and he takes a loss, then yeah, it would make a lot of sense maybe that he has to fight me. But it’s going to be relative to where we end up going at this point. I don’t know.
I know that there are some fights that they are interested in with Swick. There’s talk of Leben moving down to 170 at some point, and Swick and Leben fighting and doing that big thing, or whatever. But I’m definitely there. If something happens, and Swick gets ready to fight somebody else, and that person for whatever reason gets injured or pulls out … you know, give me a call.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Marcus, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. I know you got a lot of fans who come to the site and who are looking forward to this fight. I wanted to give you an opportunity to thank any sponsors, or if you have any parting words for your fans?
Marcus Davis: The only thing I have to say is that anyone who does support me, thank you. To me, I still get blown away that anybody watches my fights or even wants an autograph. Like when I do the UFC autograph sessions or something, I get embarrassed because I just don’t understand why anybody would want a picture of my ugly face and for me to write my name on it. From a guy from frickin’ a little town, Bangor, Maine, it’s crazy to me. So I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to send an email or to support me.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, your fights are some of the most exciting in the UFC, in my opinion, and I’m definitely looking forward to this one and to see you get back in the win column. So good luck, and thanks again for talking with us.
Marcus Davis: All right, buddy. Thank you.