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Marcus Davis - The Fighter Remains

“When people see me at that weigh-in, I think they’re gonna be really shocked,” he said. “They’re gonna look at me and they’ll all freak out. Now I’m the biggest 155er on the block.”

As Marcus Davis sat on his stool after round one of his August bout against Nate Diaz, he thought to himself that this is what becoming an “old” fighter feels like.

He bled from a nasty cut over his right eye given to him by his 25-year old opponent, but that was nothing new for a former boxer once dubbed “The Bangor Bleeder” for his tendency to practically start bleeding on his walk into the ring. But on this night in the TD Garden in Boston, it wasn’t his skin betraying him, but his legs.

“What was weird with that fight was that in the first minute or so, I felt fine, and by the end of the first round, my right leg felt absolutely exhausted,” he recalled. “That leg was just dead, and my left leg was tired too. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t understand; I thought maybe it was all those things you hear about – the first thing to go on an older fighter is their legs. And I started to have those thoughts that maybe it was that.”

Davis, as all true fighters do, shrugged off what was going on and jumped back into the fray. Nine minutes and two seconds later, it was over, with Davis submitted via guillotine choke. His face was battered and bruised, and while he took home a Fight of the Night bonus for his efforts, when asked if he thought that was it for his career as a professional prizefighter, he simply answers, “Pretty much.”

Yet a routine post-fight visit to a new doctor (after he left his previous physician before the Diaz fight) began to give him the idea that maybe he wasn’t done at the age of 37. The new doctor ran Davis through a battery of blood tests and MRIs. The verdict:

“You’ve got a lot of problems,” the doctor told Davis. “That’s the bad news. The good news is that they’re all treatable.”

The first course of business was to change Davis’ diet so he could process food properly. The results were immediate.

“I started doing the treatments and doing what he said. I was 192 pounds when I saw him right after the fight. A couple weeks later, I was down to 180. I said ‘I’m losing weight,’ and he told me, ‘You’re gonna keep losing weight, there’s no way around it. It’s gonna keep dropping off ya.’ Then I’m walking around at 175 and I called (manager) Joe Cavallaro – I’m freaking out man, I’m getting smaller. I can’t compete with the likes of Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, and Anthony Johnson. These guys are monsters, what am I gonna do?”

Cavallaro had a solution.

“You think you can make ‘55?”

Davis consulted with his doctor, who told him that he was going to keep losing weight. The next call went to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva.

“Can we take a crack at ’55?”

“Sure,” replied Silva.

And that was that. But Davis’ resurrection wasn’t done yet. Long plagued by bulging C5, C6, and C7 discs, the Maine native finally went in to have those treated and it solved the issues with a loss of strength in his right bicep and the fatigue in his legs. It may sound cliché – but Marcus Davis is truly a new man.

“Everything’s good,” he said. “I’m healthy, I’m not having any problems. I feel really good and optimistic about this and I’m excited to break into 155 pounds in the UFC. Before, I used to not be able to sleep because I was stressed out that I gotta get up and I know that I can’t eat this and I can’t eat that, and I had to train because it was my job and I had no choice. Now I want to do it. I can’t sleep at night because I’m so excited to be able to push myself and do things that I hadn’t been able to do when I was battling through the pain. And I’m pumped up. I’m excited to get in there and train. On the mental side, I’m in a much better place. I’ve always been really good mentally, even when I’ve been hurt or had injuries. I just pretty much say, ‘well, that goes with the territory, this is the job that I’ve chosen, and I just go and do it.’”

For a while – over five years in the UFC to be exact – Davis was able to get by on pure tenacity, heart, and experience. 9-5 in the Octagon, “The Irish Hand Grenade” put together a six fight winning streak from 2006 to 2008, and if you look at the five men he lost to in the UFC (Diaz, Mike Swick, Dan Hardy, Ben Saunders, and Melvin Guillard), there are no cupcakes in that lineup. But with three defeats in his last four bouts, it appeared that time was catching up to him. And while the drop to 155 pounds may be seen as a last ditch effort to turn things around, it will actually serve the 5 foot 10 Davis well physically, and it’s a move many have been calling for him to make for years.

“People have been bugging me about it forever,” he said. “Everybody’s been saying ‘you’re too short, you haven’t got the reach, why aren’t you fighting at lightweight?’ And I heard that all the time. And I was like, it might be because I walk around at 210, and cutting that 60 pounds might be kinda difficult. That’s like a small human child. (Laughs) So it just seemed impossible to me. And my whole UFC career, it’s like clockwork – every time I get on that scale five days before my fights at 170, I’m 185 pounds. I cut that 15 those last five days. I never thought it would be possible (to make 155).”

When this interview was conducted, on December 15th, Davis wouldn’t reveal his exact weight, but would say that he was “below 170.” That would put him way ahead of his usual pre-fight routine, and he promises that when weigh-in day comes on December 31st, people won’t believe their eyes.

“When people see me at that weigh-in, I think they’re gonna be really shocked,” he said. “They’re gonna look at me and they’ll all freak out. Now I’m the biggest 155er on the block.”

All that’s left is to see the new Davis in the Octagon, and welcoming him to the division will be ultra-tough prospect Jeremy Stephens.

“He’s a young, ferocious competitor, a kid that likes to bite down and give it his all,” said Davis of his opponent. “He’s a gamer, and in the past there’s been no guessing as to what his style is and the way he was going to fight. I know he’s trying to change things right now and he’s working on his wrestling a lot right now and he’s doing those kinds of things. With that said, he does have youth and tenacity on his side, but my experience is going to be a big plus for me, and that tenacity might work against him. I might not be that kind of style that you just want to bite down on your mouthpiece and walk into some punches and follow me around the cage against. I think I have a lot of advantages and I’ve been in there against guys that are veterans and not just in the top ten, but in the top four positions. That’s a big advantage. Plus, he’s got more of a boxer style, and I’m a better boxer. But I’m certainly not taking him lightly.”

You wouldn’t expect him to, and that’s something you’ve never seen out of Davis. He’s never been a ‘just show up’ kind of guy. Every fight means something, and every bump, every bruise, and every scar has meaning to him. It’s why he gets up every morning to train, and why he did it when his body was screaming at him to stop. At this point, it’s not a money thing, it’s not a legacy thing. It’s his life, and Davis is proud to call himself a fighter.

“I always fought because I loved to fight,” he said. “I’m a fighter. That’s how God made me, and that’s all I’ve ever known really. Whether it’s fighting and losing or fighting and winning, I fight. I’m just lucky that I get to do it on the greatest stage that a fighter can fight on. I don’t have to prove anything to my family – they know I go out there and take these licks for them and that I fight to provide for them. Obviously they want me to win but they don’t love me any less when I lose. But I’m not out there fighting to prove anything to anybody; I fight because I love to. It is my identity and that’s who I am.”