No, this is not a story of how Liam McGeary got his start in combat sports. That story can be summed up in a quick primer.
The 36-year-old McGeary didn’t start training in MMA until he was about 26 or 27 years old. At 6-foot-6, he was on the larger end of fighters, especially as a light heavyweight. He’s had success in kickboxing, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and his MMA record is 13-3. He’s stopped 12 opponents, and he won both the 2014 Bellator Summer Series Light Heavyweight Tournament and the Bellator light heavyweight title. The English brawler, who is currently a resident of Hawaii, has been one of the most exciting fighters in promotional history. A quick glance down the family tree reveals that the next generation is following closely in his footsteps at a much earlier age.
McGeary and his wife are parents to two young children — a four-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son. Neither of them are waiting until their twenties, or even their teens, before taking on combat sports.
“They’ve both been to the gym with me,” McGeary told Combat Press. “The four-year-old actually wrestles in the [state tournament] the week after my fight, so I will be back in Hawaii to watch that. She’s got two golds in the last two tournaments that she’s had. She’s doing very well. She wrestled in the [state tournament] last year, and she lost, so she was so upset. Now, she’s just completely turned it around. She trains like five times per week. So, we’ve got her in kickboxing, we’ve got her in wrestling, and she loves what she does.”
McGeary can draw a lot of parallels from his daughter’s experiences. He understands what it’s like to lose, and he admires his daughter’s drive to get better.
The former light heavyweight was 11-0 when he entered the cage against four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and MMA veteran Phil Davis at Bellator 163 in November 2016. Davis utilized his wrestling to drag the fight through five rounds en route to a decision win.
After a quick TKO win only three months later, McGeary suffered two setbacks in a row, when he took his first submission loss in May 2017 and his first TKO loss in February 2018. The belt seemed so far away.
“I want my title back, but I’ve got to do work first, so that’s my main focus,” McGeary said. “However I get there is exactly how I get there. I’m just training — training and training and training. What’s the saying? Eat, sleep, train, repeat.”
McGeary trains under Tiki Ghosn and Paul Herrera at Huntington Beach Ultimate Training Center in California. It’s time away from his family, but he can focus his efforts on his training. His last outing came against Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who has held championships of his own, and is also a friend. McGeary was able to pick up a solid win in traditional fashion when he scored a TKO early in the third round of the December bout. This put him right back in line for a rematch with Davis.
Davis lost the title in his fight with Ryan Bader in June 2017. Since then, he has put together two wins, but he lost a split decision to Vadim Nemkov in November. The two light heavyweights are on a collision course once again, and it all comes to a head on the main card of Bellator 220 on Saturday night.
“I wanted this match-up,” said McGeary. “I wanted this fight. I knew in my mind that Phil Davis was going to be next after King Mo. I always kind of knew who was next. It was when.
“His wrestling is definitely the top wrestling, so that’s going to be the toughest part. My wrestling is going to be able to stop his wrestling. I think I’m going to knock him out. I’m not going to go searching for it. My wrestling will help me, and I’ll deal with him on my feet.”
McGeary has a black belt in BJJ, and his striking is lethal, especially with such a long frame for a 205-pound fighter. However, Davis has been using his wrestling to neutralize his opponents for over a decade, and he’s done it once before to McGeary. McGeary, like his daughter, has tasted defeat, but he, too, has been working hard to turn things around. Fans can expect one thing on Saturday night.
“Violence,” said McGeary. “It’s the whole evolution of me. I’m the same fighter that I was back in the day. I’m that, and now more.”