UFC welterweight Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis is known for a few different things. Wearing a kilt to the Octagon is one, and being one of the few ex-pro boxers to make a successful transition to MMA is another. On Saturday he takes on Mike Swick at UFC 85, his fourth consecutive bout in the U.K. In this exclusive Cage Potato interview, the Bangor, Maine native talks about his future with the UFC, his relationship with U.K. MMA fans, and his transition from boxing to MMA.
CagePotato: Hey Marcus. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. First off, tell me how training has been going. Have you done anything differently to prepare for Mike Swick?
Training’s been going great. I spent the last twenty-four days at Sityongdong training camp, working on some stuff there. I just got back to Maine, and I’m kind of tapering off now. The only thing I would say that might be different for this camp is that about twelve weeks out I started eating like a pig, gaining weight. I got myself up to 193 pounds.
I went into training camp benching over 400 pounds and squatting somewhere in the high 400’s. I was the strongest I’ve ever been in my whole MMA career going into training camp. I wanted to make sure I was big and strong and able to deal with Swick’s weight. Then I rekindled my relationship with my old boxing coach, Joe Lake, and had him take a look at my hands to make sure that small things were right, like my hands were up, my chin was down, that I was punching on the move and doing the right things. But I only spent a couple weeks doing that, and Mark DellaGrotte was always with me making sure that I stuck to being an MMA fighter and not a boxer.
Swick has a reputation for being a pretty good stand-up fighter, but do you feel like you’ve got a clear advantage when it comes to striking? Is that where you’d like to see the fight decided?
Oh yeah. I would love for him to come in and think, ‘You know what, I’m going to make a statement. I’m going to stand with him and knock him out.’ I would love for that to happen.
Do you really think he’ll come in with that attitude?
No, I don’t think so. I think he’s going to try to use his reach, he’s going to try to stay away from me, and the second I get in there to try and throw punches he’s going to shoot for a takedown and try and get me to the ground.
Let’s talk about your relationship with the UFC fans in the U.K. It seems like you’ve become a staple for any fight card over there now. I know you’re very proud of your Irish heritage, but how much of your popularity in the U.K. is attributable to that and how much is their response to what they’ve seen of you in the Octagon?
I know that they brought me over there originally to fight in Ireland because it just made sense. But I’m one of those guys that loves going over there. There’s not a whole lot of guys who like going over there and fighting. They don’t like the trip or whatever else, but I always want to fight over there. Every time they have a show over there I’m like, please, put me in it. I love to fight over there. I’ve got a pretty good fanbase now. Even though I was the bad guy over there at first, this time it’s like I’m at home fighting and [Swick] is coming to me. Even though we’re both flying over there, Britain basically adopted me and I have good relationship with the people of the UK.
The whole thing is this, if we got into real mathematics, I’m probably about 50% Irish, 25% Welsh, and, well, probably a little more Welsh and the rest Scottish. The thing is though, I’m an American who’s very proud of where I come from and very thankful that my ancestors came from the UK and gave me the chance to grow up here. I’m thankful, and I acknowledge that, and I think the people of the UK see that and know that I’m an American who is proud to be of UK descent.
You started out as a pro boxer before you went on “The Ultimate Fighter’. What was it like trying to make that transition from boxing to MMA?
I believe that being a boxer, I thought my hands were so good and as a boxer when you watch the MMA you think, ‘Those guys stink. There’s no way they could beat me. If someone tried to shoot in and take me down I’d just punch them in the face.’
That’s what you think. You’re an idiot for thinking that, but that’s what you think. Then you find out the hard way that it doesn’t work like that, and you make excuses to yourself. After the show I realized that if I wanted to do this sport I had to become a complete MMA fighter. I embraced the sport, and now I can fight wherever I need to. I can grapple. I can do takedowns. I have good takedown defense. I don’t care where the fight goes. That’s why I’m on this eleven-fight win streak, because now I have the confidence to commit to punches and try to knock guys out because I’m not worried about being taken down.
Since you have been on such a great win streak since your appearance on the TUF 2 finale, where do you think you stand in the UFC’s welterweight division? How far are you from a title shot at this rate?
Honestly, I think I’m probably two wins away from a title fight. It depends on how this fight goes, though. If I go out there and take Swick out in impressive fashion, I will have done something that no one else has done in the UFC. Okami, it took him three rounds to win a decision. He might not have looked good against Burkman, but he went the distance and won. He beat David Loiseau in a decision.
Nobody else has been able to go in there and just starch him. If I do that, then it says something. My next fight I would think would probably be against the winner of the [Matt] Hughes-Thiago Alves fight. That person would probably get the winner of the Jon Fitch-GSP fight. It only makes sense, to me anyway.
What was the toughest thing to learn when you transitioned into MMA?
Getting comfortable on my back. Being okay with being taken down and fighting off my back. That was the toughest part.
How did you get over it?
Well, when I fought Joe Stevenson on the show and he picked me up and slammed me, it injured my clavicle and it just didn’t heal. It took nine months for that injury to heal. When I fought on the live show it was still hurt. It just never healed right.
What I ended up doing is when I went back to training, I didn’t throw one punch for six months. I just taped that arm to my side and would start out on my back every day for six months and just grappled. I grappled with everyone. I traveled all over grappling with everyone I could. Then when I was ready to go back to fighting my manager set me up with a striker and said, ‘Don’t strike with him. Go out there and grapple. Take him down and submit him.’ That’s what I did, and now I’m confident anywhere.
What made you want to do MMA in the first place?
I just completely fell in love with MMA the first time I saw it. I wanted to do it because it was closer to real fighting. It seemed like being able to push it to the limits and really fight. Boxing is very one-dimensional. You can get away with making certain mistakes and also you can get away with having just great athletic talent and being quick. You can’t do that in MMA. Even the best guys out there have losses on their records because anything can happen.
That’s why I love this sport. I think that my desire and passion for this sport, that’s why I’m always in search of my Hagler-Hearns type of fight. I want the fight that people are going to remember. That’s what I want as a legacy. I want that fight where people are going to say, ‘Oh my God, do you remember that fight years ago with Marcus Davis and so-and-so?’
That’s what I want so that when I’m done fighting people will remember those great fights that I had. That’s where my passion lies. A lot of guys want to become rich and famous and do movies or whatever, but that’s not what’s important to me. What’s important to me is having a legacy as a great fighter. Look at Mickey Ward. Mickey Ward was never known as being a great champion or anything, but you look at his fights and he’s had some great ones.
Are you saying that if you fought your whole career and had great, memorable fights but never won a major title, you’d feel satisfied with that?
Yeah, definitely. My whole life is my passion for the fight. The money I’ve made fighting goes to my kids. I have two kids going to private school. Who do you think pays for that? I have another daughter going to Suffolk University. Who do you think pays for that? So the two things in my life are my career, having a great and monumental fight, and the most important thing is the success of my children.
If my children don’t do better than me, I’m a failure. If you’re a parent and your children grow up to be scumbags and trouble-makers, you’re a failure. I don’t care if you’re a millionaire and you own companies and you tell people what to do all day, if your kids are scumbags and they’re out using drugs and hurting people, you’re a failure. That’s not going to be me. Whether I’m some washed-up fighter or whatever, people will say, ‘He was a good dad.’ That’s more important to me than having a bunch of money and fast cars and chasing broads.
Thanks, Marcus. Anything else you want to add?
No, I’m just going to try and put on a great fight. I like Mike Swick. I think he’s a good guy, and when it’s all over I’ll shake his hand and whatever happens I want to be able to say that the better man won.