In one of the most gruesome beatdowns of 2019, rising UFC star, Mike Davis, caught the attention of the entire MMA roster at UFC: Tampa, Florida. After defeating Thomas Gifford via KO in the third round with a masterful, yet gruelling performance.
However, one night was decisive in changing around what could have been a very different life for the New York-born fighter. Davis has claimed to have put a delinquent past behind him, and mixed martial arts was a pivotal factor in changing his life around.
Davis grew up in Hudson, New York and found himself mixed in with the wrong crowd. He decided to take a different approach of emotional release one night by attending wrestling training at his local gym.
It appears fate was on his side; his friends were arrested later that night for attempted armed robbery and consequently found themselves serving significant jail sentences.
“If I didn’t go to train that night, 100 percent, as anyone else would, I would have hung out with my friends, and I would have been involved,” Davis told the Sports Gazette.
He believes that night was a sign of destiny in its stride, as he focused hard on his training and kept his head down. This lifestyle change paid off massively: he was recently given an opportunity to fight for the largest promotion of them all, the UFC.
Davis has deflected some of the recent comments and criticisms regarding his role as a fighter after his controversial yet dominant win.
He delivered an exceptional striking performance against Gifford, a kick-boxing blackbelt from Arkansas. Fans and professionals across the world called for the match to be stopped early due to the punishment Davis’ opponent was receiving.
Davis believes that the controversy regarding the bout was the reason the UFC decided not to grant him either the performance of the night bonus or knockout of the night bonus, which would have seen Davis bank a $50,000 cheque into his account.
Instead, he received another, unofficial, title for the night: ‘the bad guy.’
He landed a total of 139 strikes in the three-round bout, with 98 of those landing at his opponent’s head (Davis claims this is the most from a UFC lightweight fighter in 2019.)
After two clean knockdowns in the fight and a final knockout punch which left Gifford to faceplant heavily onto the canvas, many believed that the fight should have been stopped by the referee Andrew Glenn and Gifford’s corner as early as the first round.
The Florida State Boxing Commission responsibly replaced Glenn with seasoned veteran, Herb Dean, for the rest of the night.
Gifford’s father and his coach were both in his corner; Marc Montoya of Factory X Muay Thai is considered one of the sport’s most experienced coaches and many were surprised that Montoya allowed the fight to continue.
Davis reflected on this, stating he feels Gifford’s corner should have stepped in, “the corner has all the ability to stop the fight, just as much as the referee does.”
Davis also added that if he was on the receiving end of the scenario, he would expect his coach to step in and stop the fight.
Despite the match up being hard to watch for viewers, his opponent updated the world of MMA a couple of days after the fight, releasing a statement saying that his hospital reports and CT scans showed no abnormalities with his health.
Gifford took to social media to respond to the controversy, saying: “I agreed to step in that octagon and fight. I am a man of my word and I gave it all I had.” He went on to thank Davis for taking the match up, adding: “Gotta give it to Mike. Dude hits hard.”
It was announced shortly after the bout that the UFC have released Gifford from his contract.
Although it appears the referee and Gifford’s team were at fault for failing to stop the fight, Davis has claimed to have received multiple complaints from fans who have labelled him ‘the bad guy’.
Davis responded to this, saying that it is not his job to stop the bout, there is a referee in place to do so and he simply continued to do what he is paid to do.
He believes that the fans were booing on the night because of Glenn’s controversial decision to stand Gifford up after being knocked down twice. This prevented Davis from finishing the fight via ground and pound.
Davis explained that he had to ease off the gas during the fight, as he was happy to take a unanimous decision victory over Gifford.
He has become increasingly frustrated with having to answer questions surrounding his punishment of Gifford. He feels that the controversy around it has taken plaudits away from him performance.
Davis has turned his life around via mixed martial arts training. After such a technical and dominant masterclass, it seems a shame that his name is being put in a negative spotlight for simply doing what he is paid to do.
Davis also says that he has received plaudits from the UFC’s matchmaker and Senior Vice President of Talent Relations, Sean Shelby. In a post-fight conversation, Shelby told Davis that his striking on the night was the best he has ever seen.
Recently at UFC 244, Alexander Volkanovski dethroned the long-reigning featherweight champion Max Holloway. Despite it being a far distance in the future, Davis has said he would welcome a match-up with the Hawaiian, who is one of his idols.
The fighter has announced that he will move back down to 145lbs, after taking the 155lbs fight with Gifford on four day’s notice.
It was announced yesterday that Davis will face Georgia’s Giga Chikadze in a featherweight bout on February 29th in Norfolk, Virginia. 2020 is sure to be an exciting year for Davis, who will look to break into the top 15 of the UFC featherweight rankings.