Bellator 180 features a pair of former UFC standouts vying for the Bellator light heavyweight title in a rematch between Phil Davis and Ryan Bader.
Phil Davis left the UFC as one of the winningest light heavyweights in UFC history. With the ability to dominate any opponent on the ground, he amassed a 9-3 record at 205-pounds at the highest. However, he failed to ever gain (or even fight for) a championship belt and has successfully done so in just four fights in Bellator.
Now he faces the last opponent to fight him in the UFC octagon, Ryan Bader, who bested Davis via split decision in 2015.
“Anytime you have a win over me, literally anything in life, I want to get you, and I’ve really grown so much since I’ve got to Bellator.”
Bellator has served as a platform for fighters since the UFC stopped allowing athletes to earn money from in-cage endorsements. The ability to take in income beyond fighting has attracted several from the UFC. As of late, fighters such as Rory MacDonald and Ryan Bader have joined on at Bellator.
The aforementioned split decision defeat propelled Bader to the top-five of the light heavyweight division. Mr. Wonderful’s adjustment since then?
“Do not go to the judges.” Davis laughed. “That’s my approach, do not let it get to them. I want to wrap this thing up in regulation, finish the fight.”
The circumstances surrounding the fight are entirely different this time. Two years ago this was a bout between two top contenders vying for a shot at the belt. Now, this fight contains arguably two of the top five fighters at 205 in the world representing Bellator in their first-ever event in New York City.
“My job is the same, I go in there and beat someone up,” Davis said on his promotion switch since his the first time he faced Bader. “That part doesn’t necessarily change, but the company is totally different. I like the company, I like the people that work there, and ultimately I enjoy my job so much more.”
Now Davis has not only gone from the UFC to Bellator, but from FOX to Spike TV, who has the television rights for Bellator MMA/Kickboxing events. A channel that many would say attracts a large number of dedicated fight fans rather than significant national attention.
“Spike TV is a great channel,” Davis said. “They have such a great dedicated fanbase, being on Spike gives me a great opportunity to be on their radar. The visibility I get from being on Spike is really good and I get the opportunity to use different ideas of promotion. It really is a couple of things that make it better, but not something I can necessarily put my finger on.”
He also works for a promotion that is venturing into kickboxing in addition to MMA, and plenty of fighters have crossed over between the two in the last year. But don’t expect the national champion wrestler out of Penn State University to test himself in the kickboxing ring anytime soon.
“The thing with the kickboxing is that it’s very different, those boys are crazy. You got my guy John Wayne Parr, are you kidding me? It is a very precise art, I respect those guys because what we do is punch and kick. What those guys do is very precise. It would be hard to train for a kickboxing fight, because what they do, they are very talented, and you can’t think just because you punch and kick that you can step in there with those cats.”
With the Bellator banner now as the background for this rematch, and a title win in the books, Davis sees a very different fight going down this time around.
“[The belt] is a part of me now and I don’t plan on ever losing that belt,” Davis said. “I try not to script how I think a fight will go, I let it manifest itself, but I really don’t think this fight is going to go five rounds. I think I’m going to finish him early.”
Phil Davis looks to do that this Friday at Madison Square Garden in the main event of Bellator 180. Bellator 180 will be on Spike TV and leads right into Bellator NYC pay-per-view.