"I’d say it is my time to shine and let everybody know that I’m here." - Bobby Green
Before a scheduled fight with Jim Miller at UFC 172 in April, Bobby Green was in a good place. He was about to fight on a Pay-Per-View main card against a respected opponent with the kind of name that would take Green places if he won, and after putting together a seven-fight win streak that included three UFC wins, he was on the verge of shedding the tag of being “the best fighter you never heard of.”
So yeah, life was good.
“I’m just enjoying the ride,” said Green. “God is good and he’s blessed me with these opportunities. I’m happy to be where I’m at and whatever happens happens, but I’m thankful that I was here. I live every day like it’s my last.”
The next three months would test his resolve though. The Miller fight was scrapped when Green got injured, and a UFC 176 bout against Abel Trujillo met a similar fate, with the two moving to August’s Maine card before that hit the skids as well. None of that compared to the biggest loss of all, when Green’s 23-year-old brother Mitchell Wayne Davis Jr. was killed in a drive-by shooting. All of a sudden, being thankful for what you have took on a whole new meaning.
Green doesn’t talk much about his brother’s death, simply thanking you for your concern and condolences while saying “I’m doing the best I can.” Those involved with the crime haven’t been apprehended and police say they have no leads, and if having lived 27 years on this Earth has taught him anything, it’s not to expect an arrest to be made anytime soon.
Yet after surviving a harrowing upbringing to get to this point, he still stays strong and positive. This Saturday night, he will fight Josh Thomson on a main card on FOX, a bout offered to him on short notice after Thomson’s original opponent, Michael Johnson, was injured, and while his brother may have passed, Green still has everything to live for.
“It’s been crazy,” he said of the time since the cancellation of the Miller bout until now. “But I’m a company guy. I do whatever the guys at the UFC ask me to do. Whatever it is they need, I’m always there. As long as they take care of me, I’m gonna take care of them. They’ve been great to me and I’m going to be great to them. And I think it’s a better fight for me (than Trujillo). Before, I was fighting someone who wasn’t ranked in the top ten, so it’s a better fight for me to prove myself and challenge myself.”
More importantly, it’s a fight for people to find out who Bobby Green is.
People fight professionally for a number of reasons, the top three usually being (in order): money, fame, recognition. Money is usually the priority, and it was for Green, a former high school wrestler who just had a son when he picked up MMA. He turned pro in 2008, picked up a positive reputation as a fighter to watch, and by the time 2011 rolled around and he got a call from Strikeforce, he didn’t worry about the fame, but some recognition for the work he was doing would be nice.
It didn’t come though. Not even after four wins in Strikeforce.
At least by the time Green moved to the UFC and picked up Submission of the Night honors for his debut win over Jacob Volkmann, there was some light at the end of the tunnel for him in terms of public perception, but at that moment, he didn’t want to hear it.
So he turned his phone off before his November 2013 fight with James Krause. No talk, no interviews, not even his longtime manager Jason House could get in touch with him. He would probably say it was nothing personal, but it was.
“I put so much work into the game, I’ve taken all these short notice fights - if you look at most of my career I would say 80 percent of my fights are short notice - and I still feel like people still go, who is he, and why does he deserve this and that? I just felt like my record or the guys I’ve fought would speak for themselves.”
It wasn’t just the media or fans that were apathetic to not just one of the top competitors in the lightweight division, but one of the most interesting, but Green’s fellow fighters as well. And nothing escaped his line of sight.
“I ran into a lot of guys who, when I was a little fish coming into the UFC, they were just talking bad about me,” Green recalled. “(Donald) Cerrone said some things about me, Norman Parke said some things about me, and I felt like those guys thought I was a pushover because they had these names. I felt like those guys didn’t respect me.”
If they didn’t, Green made sure they were going to. He stopped Krause in the first round, then pounded out a decision win over Pat Healy a month later.
He had arrived, and 2014 was going to be his year.
Green’s phone is back on these days, you could say reluctantly.
“I think it helped to shut everything down,” he laughs. “It’s so much more on your plate. I had to remember all these interviews on top of my workout schedule, and that can even be sporadic because I’m using different bodies at different times, so sometimes it can get chaotic with that stuff, but I guess it’s gotta get done.”
It’s a good problem to have, not that he’d admit it. His priorities these days are supporting his son Jeremiah, now six, his baby daughter Isabella, and his lady, Isabella’s mom Tabitha. Getting the respect he’s earned is important as well, but at this level of the sport, that respect comes in the form of bigger and better opportunities. It’s why he was selected to face Thomson on national television. You could call it Green’s coming out party, but he’s not about to sleep on “The Punk.”
“I’d say it is my time to shine and let everybody know that I’m here,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know exactly who I am, so I think this is the perfect fight for people to watch and see what I can do. But at the same time, he (Thomson) is a very dangerous opponent – very tough and very well-rounded. There’s not one aspect of the game where I can say ‘oh, he’s going to fight me this way.’ He can choose different avenues to go down. He’s a great wrestler, has a good ground game and he’s not bad with stand-up. He’s a well-rounded fighter and that can be dangerous because he can always choose where he wants to fight.”
Green will fight anywhere – whether literally or metaphorically, he’s been doing it his whole life - so an Octagon in San Jose will do just fine this weekend.
Green is a complex individual. There are many layers to the man dubbed “King” in his fighting life, and he’s not sure if he wants the world to see all of them. The way he looks at it, if you weren’t there with him during his rise, why would you want to be with him now that he made it to the big show?
“I think, where were you before Josh Thomson?” he asks. “Now, I’m getting hit up all the time. They didn’t want to hear anything I said until they put Josh Thomson next to my name.”
It’s okay though. The people who matter to Green still matter, even those who have gone, like his brother Mitchell.
I ask him about Jeremiah, the young man who may ultimately be responsible for changing his father’s life for the better. Green beams when he talks about his son, and tells a story of a day in the gym when he was greeted by him after a tough sparring session.
“Dad,” said Jeremiah, “you’re the greatest fighter ever.”
Green looked around, “Who told you to say that?”
No one did. It came from his heart, and it shot directly to Green’s.
“It just touched me so much.”
It made him realize that it doesn’t matter if the world recognizes what you do, as long as the right people in that world notice it.
So who is Bobby Green? If they take the time to find out, what will they see?
“I want them to know that I’m different,” he said. “Don’t judge me by what you see. I’m here to inspire people, I’m here to love people. I’m not here to be self-centered. My whole thing is to let everybody know that you can change your life in one day. You can wake up one day and never look back and be something great.”
He’s on his way.