Successful fighters are typically accustomed to dealing with adversity. They attribute the quality to a principal instilled at a young age by a parent or coach, to a difficult upbringing, or to any other number of explanations. Regardless of how they’ve acquired the means to handle hardship, the characteristic can inherently be found in Mixed Martial Artists who win more than they lose. It pushes them to train or cut weight when others’ bodies tell them to stop. It gets them through injury, rehabilitation, or extremely stressful positions inside the ring when others would give up.
Deray Davis is one such fighter. At 5-1, the 27 year old has seen a number of challenges in his life and always been prepared to conquer them. One such struggle occurred a few weeks ago at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers” when his bout against fellow Chicago-area competitor Mark Miller was unexpectedly postponed and eventually dropped from the card the very night it was scheduled to take place.
Davis recently took some time out of his day to talk to Five Ounces of Pain about the night of the cancellation, as well as give some insight on his his background and a number of other things as well…
FiveOuncesOfPain: What is your history in terms of the road you travelled to come to where you are today? How did you originally become interested in grappling/striking and what made you decide to try your hand at Mixed Martial Arts?
Deray Davis: I grew up doing all the wrong things and started getting in trouble with the police. I got to high school and I met wrestling coaches Troy Allen and Steve Colon. Both guys took time outside of the school to make sure I stayed out of trouble by picking me up on the weekend to go train. It gave me an outlet to channel any anger or personal issues I had at that time. Steve was actually real big into MMA, so after wrestling practice we would start working on my striking. Senior Year, both coaches helped me find a scholarship in wrestling and I wrestled in college.
FiveOuncesOfPain: How soon after scoring a knockout win three and a half minutes into your professional debut did you know you were destined for a career in MMA? How did the TKO against Marcus Keith come about? What did it feel like to find such success in your first fight?
Davis: The win over Marcus Keith felt good but never changed my thoughts on how I felt about my future in the sport. When I watched guys like Anderson Silva, Randy Couture, and BJ Penn fight I knew i still had a long road to go and still do. Marcus Keith was a tough guy, but at that point of my career I didn’t believe he had what it took to stop me from winning my pro debut. I wanted it too bad!
FiveOuncesOfPain: After racking up five wins in six matches, with one draw along the way, you ran into your first and only loss in a bout against Jesse Juarez last May at Bellator 6. However, fans may not realize you also went three full rounds against Quinton McCottrell six days earlier at a different event. How much did the McCottrell fight affect your performance against Juarez? Did that initial taste of defeat teach you anything or influence your training in any way?
Davis: When I fought Quinton I felt great. He was a chip on my shoulder that I was glad to brush off. When I fought on Bellator I still felt great despite the loss. I know my family and friends were saying that I took the fight on four days notice or I cut eighteen pounds in two days. To me those are all excuses.
I felt great in that fight. My hat goes off to Juarez. He’s a stud and I would love to fight him again. He showed me that I still had weaknesses on the ground I had to improve. I hate to lose so that loss helped the fire burn even brighter.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Most recently you were scheduled to step into the cage against Mark Miller at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers”. Going into the event, how excited were you to be fighting on such a star-studded card, not to mention competing in the Sears Centre with the potential of being nationally broadcast on CBS if time or performance somehow permitted? Being that you’re from the area, did you have friends/family in attendance ready to show their support?
Davis: I was so amped to fight on the Strikeforce card! It was a blessing to even be asked to fight (at the event). There are a lot of tough guys in this area and for me to be picked to fight on the Fedor and Rogers card was great. I had SO many people that paid a hundred dollars or more to come watch me showcase my talent!
FiveOuncesOfPain: Unfortunately some sort of error prevented you and Miller from ever actually fighting on the undercard or after the main event. From your perspective, please give fans some insight into how things went down. Were you kept up to date on the situation? When did you learn you wouldn’t be fighting and how would you describe your immediate reaction to hearing the news?
Davis: I was (the fifth fight). I sat in the back and started warming up on bout four. The commissioner came down and said I was (pushed) back till bout six. So, I waited until bout six where I found out i will be fighting at the end of the main event.
At that point I was getting real irritated. I was ready to get out there and rumble already. When the main event was over, I found out that my fight was cancelled. I didn’t really believe it at first. Who would? Then the call came through that the show was done. I felt like all these years I’ve been training was for nothing. I wanted to just hurt someone to be honest with you.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Strikeforce representative Mike Afromowitz explained that in lieu of the inability to set it up for the future date Strikeforce decided to pay out both your fee for showing up at the event, as well as what you could have earned as a win bonus. How much of a relief was it to hear you would at least be recouping a good deal of money for your trouble? Does it make up for the disappointment you and your friends/family experienced throughout the ordeal? Have the circumstances surrounding Saturday night negatively impacted your opinion of the promotion?
Davis: It was good to get free money, but I can’t lie….I’m a fighter…that’s my job. It doesn’t make up for the blood sweat and tears I put in the gym. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt like I let not just myself down but family, friends, and teammates down too. The only thing that I took from the experience is that I met a lot of great fighters, from Dan Henderson to Bas Rutten. These guys and others took time out to sit down with me and give me great advice. I don’t think negatively about the promotion but it sucks to waste all that time in training and not have anything to show for it. My birthday was on the 30th of October and then Halloween was the following day. I spent both days in the gym for numerous of hours then just went home. That so BLOWS!!! *laughs*
FiveOuncesOfPain: What are your thoughts on other Strikeforce welterweights like Nick Diaz, Jay Hieron, and Tyron Woodley? Are there any people in particular you’d like to stand across the cage from?
Davis: Man those are all high level fighters. I would love to test myself against any of them. Guys like those bring out the best in your in practice an in the fight itself. Just even seeing those names makes want to start training now!
FiveOuncesOfPain: What are your plans for the immediate future? Will you be competing on a future Strikeforce card, possibly against Miller, or is that still up in the air?
Davis: My plan now is just to relax, stay in shape, and maybe do a jiujitsu tournament. If I get the call again I’ll take it against Miller or whoever else they put in front of me.
FiveOuncesOfPain: Any final thoughts? Also, feel free to mention any training partners, friends, family, or sponsors you’d like to give a shout out to. Thanks again for your time and best of luck in the future.
Davis: No final thoughts. Still steaming from (the cancelled bout). I want to thank my sponsor Bob’s Place, Good and Evil Clothing, MMA Stop, and Eminent clothing. I want to thank Team Colon, Chicago Boxing, Flo MMA, Duneland Vale Tudo and thank everyone from TEAM CORRAL. You guys show me so much love! Thanks! Big thanks to Brian Angelo Tesoro, Nilo Soto, Steve Colon, Braulio Corral, Paulie Gonzalez as well …