Bellator 192 comes to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. on Jan. 20, 2018, featuring Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson — who will kick off the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix — as well as Douglas Lima vs. Rory MacDonald for the Welterweight title.
Even though the established stars are shining brightly on Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV), there’s also an opportunity for young blood to shed a little of it on the canvas and prove their worth to the throngs in the building or at home using Bellator’s app.
Welterweight Joey Davis (2-0) is just such a man. He hails from the same BodyShop team as Featherweight star A.J. McKee and the young prodigy “Baby” Slice. He was touted on arrival as going 131-0 in college and winning four national Division II wrestling title for Notre Dame College of Ohio.
Now, each mixed martial arts (MMA) fight for Davis is another chance to step up and prove the hype is real. And Ian Butler (3-3, 1 NC) is the right test at the right time — a man with more experience as a professional, but a lackluster record overall. Davis believes this big weekend is another chance to impress.
“I feel lucky and blessed, seriously, but it’s not nothing I’m not prepared for. I’ve been on big stages my whole life. I’ve been winning world championships and going out of the country since I was a kid. So now it’s just time to shine! Nothing new.”
Davis credits both his amateur experience and his BodyShop family as the reasons for feeling so comfortable in the spotlight ... emphasis on the word “family.”
“Oh yeah, those are my brothers! Like brothers from another man. I’ve got great training partners, a great staff, and we’re just like brothers man! Just family, trying to make it. We go to the beach together, we train together, we party together and eat together, so we have good chemistry.”
On paper, Ian Butler has five more fights on his overall record, but Davis is not at all fazed by Butler’s experience.
“I mean, it’s still a fight. He’s still gonna get hit in his face. I don’t really care about his record. I know if I go in there and do what I gotta do then it’s up for grabs. I’m kind of glad he got the experience, so he can have a lot of confidence in himself. I don’t like fighting people who are scared.”
Davis was a bit surprised to learn that in three Bellator appearances, Butler was winless (0-3), including Bellator’s last card at The Forum in Inglewood.
“I didn’t even know that! I didn’t know that. Thank you. That’s more confidence for me. I can’t let him get this one, either.”
There has always been a hype train surrounding Davis, and he’s pleased to not be letting down the people who got on board for the ride at this early stage of his career.
“I think I’m going up slowly, but surely. My first fight went to a decision, I wasn’t happy with that, not that the guy wasn’t tough or nothing I just didn’t think he would be that tough. My second one I did it have a stoppage, and so I feel like I’m going up slowly, but surely. It’s only a matter of time before I’m going to be in that spotlight for a world championship where the whole world can see me and be that role model and be that person kids can look up to from the hood.”
And that hood just happens to be Inglewood, so Davis is conveniently close to home for this fight.
“I live six minutes from The Forum. I go to The Forum all the time. I’m probably gonna walk to my fight, that’s how literally close I live to the Inglewood Forum. So that’s why it was a blessing that I fought on the card, I didn’t want to fight on nothing BUT this one, because I live in Inglewood! I live there right now. I’ve seen a lot of my favorite artists perform there — Drake, Cardi B perform there. I like going to concerts, having fun, and things like that, so it was a blessing, man.”
A lot of the marketing for Davis has put him in Bellator’s “Fab Five” as a young up-and-coming wrestler with untapped potential. While Davis appreciates it, he’s not pressured by it, either.
“No, I’m in my own lane. I’m the best out of all of ‘em. Out of all the ‘Fab Five’ I’m the best. That’s how I see it, and that’s how I’m gonna come at it. I feel like with my skills I can do anything in there. My hands is good, my wrestling’s good, I’m in shape. I have the physical ability, I have the looks, I have all the tools to be the world champion. I’m the best, period!”
That bold assertive attitude doesn’t come without respect for his “Fab Five” brethren, though, and in particular Davis cites Ed Ruth as someone he looks up to and wants to emulate.
“I love it, man! I’ve been watching Ed, Tyrell Fortune, Aaron Pico, Jarod (Trice), I’ve been watching them since I was in college, so it’s just cool to be with these guys and pick (skills) off of them. Especially Ed, man. Ed Ruth’s a guy I looked up to in wrestling, whether he believes it or not, I’ve watched every step of him a lot, man. He was just a phenomenal athlete, a swimmer, man he’s an amazing dude (and) a good-hearted guy.”
Davis has the good fortune to have a “Fab Five” fighter featured on this Bellator card right there with him in the BodyShop, someone he’s known since childhood.
“We have Aaron Pico as well, another brother I’ve been knowing since he was four years old, I call him ‘Cheeks.’ I guess he got (that name) because he had big old cheeks as a kid. His mom Mrs. Gina she called him that. He was always smiling, man, always smiling and laughing! He had an older brother Patrick Pico as well who was pretty decent at wrestling, and at the time was better than him because you know Aaron was smaller. We just called him ‘Cheeks’ because he was the smallest on the team and he was always smiling! He ain’t a baby no more.”
After seeing Pico rebound successfully from his first loss, Davis thinks that while Pico may be smiling, his opponent Shane Kruchten won’t be.
“Aaron Pico is an amazing kid. I can’t say anything bad about my brother. His training camp is going really well. I just hope that he just stretch out a little more, he’s a little tight around the edges, but that’s it man. He’s a tremendous training partner for me. I’m scared for his opponent to be honest. I don’t know how he can lose. Only way he can lose is how he lost his first fight — a lucky punch. You’re not gonna beat his ass. You’re not gonna out hustle him. He’s a machine!”
Davis knows with continued success he could start calling out names, but he’d rather focus on Ian Butler for now and let Antonio McKee and his BodyShop teammates guide him forward.
“Whatever my coach wants me to do, man. I just stay humble, do what my coaches and my dad tell me to do, and be a kid. (Antonio McKee is) a phenomenal guy, man. Somebody that’s never steered me wrong or done anybody wrong. All I’ve ever seen him do is help people. He got me to this platform. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t even be in Bellator.”
It may be a cliche to be “humble and hungry” as a young fighter, but at 24 years old Davis is far more than the kid he professes to be. Watch the young man do work at Bellator 192 this Saturday night.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Lima vs. MacDonald” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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