The nickname. It can be carried from our childhood into our late adulthood. It might be a sweet name your grandmother had for you or that you had for her. It could be a silly one you got in elementary school from hanging upside down or wearing different clothes than everyone else. Sometimes a nickname is more than just a simple word. It can become a manifested part of who you are or what you do. “Lil Slugger” could have prompted one to become a professional baseball player (Congrats to the Houston Astros by the way). In the MMA world, a fighter’s nickname usually comes from their demeanor both inside and outside of the cage — Anderson “The Spider” Silva, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, Rich “Ace” Franklin and David “Caveman” Rickels, just to name a few. These fighters either picked up their nicknames due to their likeness or their fighting prowess. A nickname should define a fighter. For V3Fights 64 headliner Jeremy Davis, a change in nickname was prompted by personal growth.
“I just felt that back then when I was ‘The Beast,’ I think I was just a kid who got bullied in life and wanted to get into a cage or some type of combat sport and just really unleash all of the anger I guess I had in me,” Davis told Combat Press. “Then I was in a fight and I dislocated my own shoulder to get out of a straight armlock. I dislocated my shoulder and got out of it and ended up finishing the dude on the ground in a rear-naked choke, and I was just like, I got out of that and I just figured I was making my pro debut, [so] why not come up with something new?
“I love looking nice. I love jewelry. I love dress clothes. And I felt a good way to market myself and get the exposure was to change the name and change the way I carry myself. So, I started wearing three-piece suits and nice watches and jewelry and nice dress shoes, and one day I was in the gym training and walked in, looking nice and sharp before changing my clothes, and one of the girls that was in the gym was like, ‘Man, he’s a pretty boy and he fights?’ And right then and there it stuck. Ever since then, that’s all I hear. I enjoy walking into the cage without any scuff marks and I love exiting the work office without any scuff marks, so ‘Pretty Boy’ is the name.”
And wrecking faces is the game.
The term pretty boy is not usually associated with the MMA world. The scene is usually littered with outcasts, rejects and those who decided one day that fighting was the career for them. Apart from part-time model and current UFC welterweight Alan Jouban, the ideas of fighting and looking nice usually do not go hand in hand. Davis is a rare breed, though, and he has found his home with V3. The company, which made its first trip to Tampa, Fla., just two months ago, is on track to become a very formidable organization in the professional regional scene.
“I feel like there’s been so much talk about them,” said Davis. “When I was sponsored by Iron Jaw Mouthguards, they brought it to my attention like, ‘Hey, you should fight for V3. It’s out here and maybe they can get you on one of their cards.’ And then John Prisco, being with the XFC, comes back and he partners up with Alliance [MMA] and V3, and it’s like, what better person to fight for and place and promotion than V3. Once they brought out that [UFC President] Dana White is looking at these guys that are partners, it’s like, ‘This could be my shot.’ I believe that November 11th is my shot.”
Anyone familiar with the Tampa Bay MMA scene is fully aware that there has been one stable for many years in the Real Fighting Championships, run by Joe Valdez. In fact, RFC 41 was held on Friday, Nov. 3, and had some incredible match-ups on the card. So, for V3 to come in, it’s not so much a competitive market as it is a way for these fighters to branch out. For example, Davis competed on the RFC 34 card in July 2015, but, with only one pro promotion in the Tampa area, things got complicated.
“RFC has been here forever, and it’s almost like we’re coming across guys that we either train with or we’ve seen them fight on the RFC the month prior or two months prior, and it’s like we see these guys in the grocery store,” Davis said. “I like fighting guys from out of state who can give me different looks, because I travel from gym to gym just to get some good sparring in [and] get some good looks in. It’s always a pleasure to go to these gyms, but if I end up fighting a guy in their gym, I lose that opportunity of sparring.”
Gym-hopping. A decade ago, this concept would have been met with stern warnings and idle threats, given the commitment a fighter has toward his home gym. However, as the fight game has progressed and fighters seek to expand on their skills, it’s happening more often and has become an acceptable part of the game. That’s one of the reasons Davis is part of the Shift MMA team, whose name really gives the world an idea about where their philosophies lie.
“With Shift MMA, we like to travel,” said Davis. “We travel to Orlando, a deeper part of Tampa, which is about a 30-minute ride up to Brandon. We’re at Brandon Wrestling with the high school kids, which, if you know Brandon Wrestling [coached by] the Cozarts, they’re top-of-the-line wrestlers over there.
“And then we’re at Gracie Brandon getting our jiu-jitsu in. We love to travel and just spar and get the different looks. When we are out there in Orlando, we go to Julien Williams’ gym [where we work with] Alex ‘The Spartan’ Nicholson. You have ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry, you have [Philip] ‘Fresh Prince’ Rowe, who’s also fighting on this card. And those are, in my eyes, top guys in this sport right now, and it’s always a pleasure just to get a few rounds with them.
“I’ve been with Coach ‘Trey’ [Martin Brown] and Coach Jahaad [Wingfield] going on seven years now. To be honest with you, I wouldn’t be where I’m at without them two. Coach Trey — aka ‘Smash Brown’ — he’s been fighting since, I think, he was 15 when he took his first kickboxing match, and he’s 32 now and still fighting. Coach Jahaad, he was training when little kids were playing with Legos. To me, and to those that see me fight, I have two of the best, I think, that are in my corner.
“We keep evolving as a team. We just picked up Avery McPhatter as part of our team. We have Terry Wells, who was in the Olympic boxing. And we keep evolving. We’re getting a lot of these amateur guys who want to join our team because they see us as pros living our dream, and our main goal is to be in the UFC and make it to that big stage. With them seeing that we travel and not a stationary gym, just staying in our gym doing the same routine Monday through Friday, I think that’s what draws a lot of these guys to us, to want to come train with us and get the experience and the exposure that we do.
“It’s like you are your own boss. If you want to train at such-and-such gym and sign a waiver or if they have a mat fee or whatever the case may be, you have that opportunity. But if you’re locked down to a Monday-through-Friday gym and have a contract signed to that gym, I feel you just don’t ever get out of your comfort zone. Last [week], I ended up sparring at Tampa Muay Thai, who, in my eyes, has some of the top kickboxers in the Tampa Bay area, and it was just out of my comfort zone. And it was probably the best 10 rounds that I have ever experienced in sparring. Ever.
“And guys are getting so comfortable doing their normal routine and going in there on fight night and getting exposed quick. I feel to be at that next level, you gotta get out of your comfort zone, because when you come to the big stage, you’re going to see everything. A lot of guys that are getting to the big stage [are] crumbling. Coach Jahaad, I swear he just pounds it into me. He’s like, ‘I want you to make it, but I want you to stay.’ [Because], at the end of the day, ‘Oh wow! I went to the UFC… and I lost.’ Who’s gonna remember that? That I went to the UFC [and] got beat under pressure? No. I want to go out there and make the impression and make the statement that I’m here and keep my butt in the UFC. That’s the whole point — where I don’t have to work at nine-to-five job and my mom don’t have to work no more. And I’m living that dream.”
This comparison links fighting to an entrepreneurial lifestyle where the individual has to build their brand, tell their story, and really live that lifestyle that accompanies breaking the mold to do what they love. Davis’s need to compete not only comes from his own desire to fight, but from watching someone in his life fight every day. His mother, Melissa, has competed in her own fight against cancer multiple times. She is currently undefeated, too.
“That woman has been through so much in her life, beating cancer three times now, and just watching her fight, it’s like, ‘Man, I complain about cutting weight. I’m over here with these long hours of training. Man, this woman fought cancer and beat it three times, and I’m over here doing this? Man, let me get my butt in the gym,’” Davis said. “And then, you know, I got her pushing me — ‘Get your ass in there. Train. And let’s get this victory.’ I don’t need nobody hyping me up. I have my beautiful mom doing all of that. When I finally get signed by the UFC, I’m giving her the world, and that’s what I was raised to do — to give back to that woman for fighting for everything that she’s ever given me.
“She had cancer that was pretty much spreading in her legs. It started in her legs and it would spread like little blotches. It started to spread, and it would beat her up and take her energy and stuff like that. I just saw her day in and day out, just like change her diet [and] her activities. Instead of sitting, she’s standing. She’s walking. She’s not eating junk foods. It was just like, ‘Wow! Look at what she’s doing with her life and not complaining.’ Not one time did she complain. It was like, ‘Hey mom, you know you have cancer?’ She’s like, ‘Nah. No, I don’t. I’m good.’ It was probably one of the most… When I fought for Battleground MMA, throughout that whole camp, it was like the hardest thing just watching her.
“It looked like she was struggling, but, to her, she was beating it. And she knocked it out three times. She just beat it again last month. Without her, I would have no drive to do what I do. This camp right now hasn’t been the best A1 camp. Has my camp been the best camp that I’ve wanted? No. I’ve faced adversity, but, at the end of the day, I think about my mom. She leaves me all these notes or she might text me and it’s like, ‘You know what? She’s right. I’m in a better mood now. Let’s go train. Let’s get through the day. Let’s get to training and let’s make training the best that we can.’ That’s what happened before sparring. She texted me, ‘Do your best in sparring tonight,’ and I was like, ‘Oh. You’re right. You’re damn right. I’m gonna go over there and spar.’ And I had the best 10 rounds.”
It’s a scary thing when an individual has that much motivation. It’s what separates Davis from the pack. He’s not talking trash or creating drama. He’s fighting for a purpose. A goal. A dream.
Davis was set to meet Alberto “The Promise” Montes, a 23-year-old Venezuelan fighter with an unblemished record of 3-0. However, as is apt to happen in the world of MMA, an injury wreaked havoc on this plan.
“I’ve had two fights get canceled on me before I got picked up by V3 for this one,” said Davis. “I had to get right back into training.
“I’ve been telling my coaches for the last two months now that I need a knockout on my resume. I’ve got a TKO and I’ve got these submissions, but I want a clean knockout and this is going to be it. I’m letting my fans see it. My fans have all wanted it and November 11th in my backyard, I’m getting the knockout.”
Instead of Montes, though, Davis will have to hunt for the finish against Sebastian Angel. Angel sports a 3-2 mark, but he’s also coming off an August loss to Abdiel Velazquez.
“I first started with that gym he’s out of,” said Davis. “I trained with Sebastian long ago.”
The idea behind wanting a specific type of finish has been the downfall of many a fighter. The concept clouds the judgement of the fighter. Instead of being a mixed martial artist, the fighter reverts to a tunnel vision.
“Of course, I want the knockout,” Davis said with a chuckle. “But if I have any type of submission, if I’m just beating him up, if it comes to a doctor stoppage, whatever the case may be, I’m gonna be satisfied with victory to advance to 5-1. I’ve had so many visions in training and sparring, it’s like ‘Man, maybe this is the one.’
“I had one of my friends the other day just text me random, and it was like, ‘11/11. Knockout.’ And I was so caught off guard, because it just said 11/11. Knockout. What’s that mean? And she was like, ‘11/11, that’s lucky numbers and you’re gonna knock this dude out.’ I was like, ‘Oh! That’s nice to hear. I like it.’ It’s like everything was clicking. I’m visualizing everything.”
In Montes, Davis would have faced a former featherweight who was set to make the jump to the lightweight division for the first time. Angel, too, has fought at various weights, going as low as flyweight in the past. Meanwhile, Davis has competed at 145, 155 and 150 pounds.
“I like 155. I like 145. And I did a catchweight at 150, I think once or twice,” Davis explained. “For some reason, when they changed the whole weight-class thing, I wish they would have done a 150-pound [division]. I like 145, because I feel like I am the taller opponent [and] the bigger opponent. When I fought Peter Barrett, we did a catchweight at 150 and, man, he hydrated up real well. He came in that cage and he looked like a whole new person. I was in his backyard. He had everything he needed. I’m out there in Massachusetts trying to find the nearest grocery store.”
Weight class comes down to the weight cut itself, and weight-cutting has been a hot topic over the last few years, with countless UFC bouts being canceled within days and even hours of the fight due to a poor weight cut and its impact on the fighter’s well-being.
“There’s just so many guys out here doing it the wrong way, and I think this year two or three guys have passed away from a weight cut,” said Davis. “I pretty much make sure that my team, first things first, my team is 100 percent behind the weight cut, the time we have to cut the weight, and then we go with the food. So, I’m with Diesel Fitness and Coach Phil [Wallin]. He’s basically my strength-and-conditioning coach and my nutritionist. He has put me on probably the best food plan possible.
“Yeah, it’s become expensive, but who said eating healthy was cheap. I make sure that I’m putting the right foods in my body, the right proteins, and eating at a certain time. These past few weeks, I’ve done a little fasting program, just eating between the hours of 10 [a.m.] and 6 [p.m.] and just seeing how my body adapts to it. This is the first time I have ever done this and I’m not as hungry as I used to be, and I think that it is a good thing and it also isn’t too bad doing these meals, because I’m only eating three meals a day and I have the energy to burn and to also take in a protein shake just before bed, just to get through the night. I wake up and I’m losing two to three pounds just in a matter of days. I think [two weeks] ago I lost six pounds.
“Come weigh-ins, I should be about three to four percent body fat, maybe even less. I feel great. My body’s feeling great. Everything, I think, is going good with this weight cut nutrition-wise and just having a good food plan right now.”
The biggest issue that seems to come from the weight cut is the massive amount of pounds a fighter tries to shed just days out from the fight. Even with years of training and conditioning, its effect on the body can be detrimental and even deadly.
“That’s the problem,” Davis agreed. “They wait the two weeks — [a] week out and they want to cut 20 pounds. It’s like, ‘Oh man, I don’t know if I can ever do that.’ I think I got the notice about V3 sometime at the beginning of [October] and I went right into cutting weight. Dropped all the donuts. Dropped all the desserts and [went] right into cutting. My walk-around weight is 175. I try not to get over 175, but sometimes with the sweets it gets there.”
Davis’s outlook on the fighting game is refreshing and refined. As in the entrepreneur realm, one of the biggest assets a fighter can have is networking. It’s all about attending events, speaking at functions and, of course, the interviews.
“I love doing this,” Davis said. “I feel that just talking to [the media], it’s exposure for me. [They] help me, because what I like to do is give [them] the uncut version of me. This is me. I love what I do. Do I want to work a nine-to-five job? Absolutely not. I would love to just train full-time and fight. Do I make a ton of money fighting? No. We live on fighter paychecks, because that’s just the process right now. Did I come from a wealthy family that had everything in the world? Absolutely not. I’ve been through so much and fighting through so much. I’ve seen my mom fight through so much, that I have nothing else to do but fight.
“If everything just shut doors and fighting just don’t exist no more, well, I guess I would just be a nine-to-five boring-ass dude. None of these fighters want to be at their nine-to-five job. Michael Davis, who just fought for Island Fights, he made a post that he didn’t want to work. It’s like, ‘Shit. I don’t either.’ Especially when we are cutting weight.
“People ask me, ‘Why are you tagging Dana White, [UFC matchmakers] Sean Shelby [and] Mick Maynard? Why are you tagging them? They know your page?’ Nope. But they are going to. I’ve always had respect for my opponents, always 100 percent, but with everything that I have been going through and facing head-on in my life, I have to release it all on him. It’s part of the business.
“At the end of the day, it’s time to clock in for work. When that cage door closes and that pin drops, it’s time to clock in. On November 11th, I just have to release everything that I possibly have into that cage. I gotta make sure that when I leave that cage, I left everything in there and that’s it. It’s gonna be one hell of a show. It’s gonna be fireworks, and I look to advance my record to 5-1 with a vicious KO, and if we don’t get the KO, we are definitely leaving victorious.”