The good times continue when UFC 220’s Brandon Davis makes his promotional debut on the grandest of stages this Saturday.
When Brandon Davis defeated the highly touted Austin Arnett on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series 4, he punched his ticket to the UFC. Yet Davis had no idea that he’d be debuting on the same card as a fight that has the potential to be one of the most monumental heavyweight title bouts of all time. At UFC 220, with Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou topping the show, Davis will make the transition to the UFC, and jump right into prime time as part of the Fox Sports 1 preliminary card.
“I used to watch MMA when I was younger, and I was like ‘I would never do that.’ Turns out I was wrong!”
Davis spoke to Cageside Press leading up to his featherweight bout against Kyle Bochniak about the fight, getting his start in the sport, and more.
Starting out, MMA was about staying competitive for the Alan Belcher MMA product. Davis, who played football in college, needed to stay busy. “I like to compete, so I had to find something to do after college” he told us. “Whenever I was at Mississippi State, there was this booth that said ‘MMA, Jiu-jitsu’ and I was like, ‘I guess I’ll check this out.'”
Davis, a fan of the sport, never thought he’d be the one stepping in the cage some day. Even though he’d done a little boxing, Davis recalled that “I used to watch MMA when I was younger, and I was like ‘I would never do that.’ Turns out I was wrong!” What changed his mind was his training. “It looked like it was pretty brutal. I wasn’t against it, I loved watching it, but I didn’t know if I could make myself do it at the time. But once I started training, I loved it. Why would I not do this?”
Watching Jose Aldo From the WEC Days
Coming up, his favorite fighter was the King of the weight class he’d later join himself: featherweight great Jose Aldo. “I’d been watching him since the WEC days. That’s when I was really liking him a lot.”
That time when Davis wasn’t sure about fighting himself? That was back “when he was in there merking everybody, knocking Cub Swanson out in five seconds, doing all that, tooling Urijah Faber, and Mike Brown, and all these really really good people, making them look like they weren’t anything.” Aldo would later serve as an inspiration. “For the longest time I styled my game around his, I had really hard leg kicks.” Eventually, of course, Davis developed his own style. “People knew I was going to my leg kicks; now I change it up a lot more. I take a lot from a lot of different people.”
Aside from Aldo? “Conor McGregor is hard not to like just because he’s really good, Dominick Cruz, I love his footwork.”
Jumping to the UFC
Looking back to Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, which was Davis’ springboard into the promotion, did everything go down as he expected? “I said exactly what I was going to do, and it went exactly how I said it would. Of course, I would have liked to get a finish, but that guy [Arnett] was tough.”
Tough, but Davis came out on the right side of the win, and the performance saw a UFC contract awarded. With his foot in the door, the question becomes one of pressure, but Davis said he “never really thinks about a fight as pressure.”
“I never had any pressure on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series. When I’m in there, I’m just fighting. I don’t think about anybody that’s outside, I don’t worry about the crowd. I don’t even think about that while I’m in there” he explained. “It’s never crossed my mind. I guess that all comes from football, cause in football I never even realized the crowd was out there either, so I guess my mind just kind of shuts things off. And I had fun in there, I guess that’s another thing, a lot of people are so nervous.”
The nerves don’t get to Davis. Instead, “if you watch me fight, you’ll see me smiling ninety percent of the time. If you hit me with a good shot, I’m going to smile; if I hit you with a good shot, I’m really going to smile.”
“I’m literally having a good time in there, so to me there’s no pressure.”
As a result, Davis isn’t the sort of fighter who needs heat with an opponent to perform better. “I definitely don’t have to have beef, I hate when people act like they have to get mad to fight somebody. I don’t have to get mad to fight you, I punch people every day at the gym that I like” he noted. “So I’ll punch somebody that I don’t know, but don’t dislike. We’re in there for the same reason.” Plus, as he pointed out, “if you get mad, you can’t use your game as much.”
Davis does do a little trash talking, mind you — but doesn’t let it go too far. “As far as talking trash, I’m in there talking to them, like ‘yeah I got you with that one!’ and all this kind of stuff. It’s not like I’m talking shit like ‘yo man you’re a bitch’ — I’m talking trash, but it’s not to the point that it’s really disrespectful.”
UFC 220 vs. Kyle Bochniak
Next up on the receiving end of that banter is Kyle Bochniak, 1-2 in the UFC to date. Davis summed up his opponent, saying that “he’s good, of course being in the UFC, you’re going to be good. There’s not really any sorry people in the UFC, there’s just people that are better.”
Davis even broke down Kyle Bochniak’s past few performances:
“His first fight, he took on one week’s notice, kind of gassed out a little early, against Charles Rosa, so I don’t really take that into consideration. His last two, he had Enrique Barzola and that fight was close. The first time I watched it, I thought that Kyle won, then every time I watch the fifth, I think Enrique won, and it was a split decision so it was close. And of course he got tooled by Kennedy on the ground. He’s got some good stuff; for one, if you take him down, other than Kennedy, nobody’s ever been able to hold him there. You might take him down, but he’s popping back up.”
That said, “his striking’s pretty basic. He doesn’t do very much, so there’s not that much I have to look out for as far as that.” Davis then added “but he has a hard right hand, I’ll try not to let him hit me with that of course, but so did Austin Arnett, and a lot of people that I fight. I can take a pretty good shot, so he’s going to have to catch me just right. There’s a possibility of that, but I don’t foresee it happening.”
In the end, Davis sees this as a sound match-up for him. “I pressure, I throw so many different combos, and make everything look the same so you don’t ever know what’s coming. So it’s hard for you to think about what you want to throw because you’re always thinking about what I’m going to throw.” He likes to push the pace. “Every couple seconds I’m going to throw something up there” he said, adding that “my last fight, I threw 471 strikes, which I’ve heard is the most in a UFC fight, and it was only a three round fight. He’s only landed one hundred and something strikes out of forty-five minutes in the cage, three fifteen minute fights. I landed more than that in my one fifteen minute fight.”
“It’s not about what he does, it’s about what I do.”
Which could be overwhelming for his foe. “It’s going to be a lot to deal with, that’s going to get you tired whenever you’re backing up and having to think about what I’m doing. It changes up your heart rate, changes up breathing rhythm, and makes you tired a lot faster. He’s going to have a lot to deal with.”
Davis clearly has a good handle on his opponent. That said, the fighter, who helps coach Jason Knight and has broken down video for him, said he tries not to get into the “nitty gritty” of game plans. “I’ll watch a guy for two days, then I won’t watch him again. Because it’s not about what he does, it’s about what I do.”
Which he’ll be doing in Boston, part of what could be one of the biggest cards of the year. A card Davis is thrilled to be a part of. “I was so excited when I found out. Before I found out it was the 220 card, I was like ‘man, they’re never going to give me a fight, I fought in August!’ I was waiting, waiting, waiting, Jason fought two days before I fought then got a fight two months before me. I was like ‘what’s going on?'”
With Sean Shelby promising something good, it turned out to be worth the wait. “I’m the first guy off the Contender series to actually be on a PPV card, so I think that’s pretty cool.”
Looking Ahead to the Rest of 2018
And the goal after that, for 2018? “I like to fight pretty often. This last layoff was a long one for me” he said. If all goes well, Davis would like to fight three more times this year. “I don’t like to wait that long.”
“Hopefully after this one, I’m going to see if I can’t get on another big card” he told Cageside. Noting the Texas card might be too soon, he suggested Florida as a possibility. “I’ll fight in Orlando on that card next month if they’ll let me. I know Charles Rosa got hurt with his neck injury [that saw him forced off UFC 220], I’ll fight him next, or Gabriel Benítez, who beat Jason Knight his last fight.” A little bit of revenge, perhaps?
First up, however, is the match against Bochiak, slotted to serve as the UFC 220 Featured Preliminary fight. Does Davis have any final prediction?
“He’s on his last fight of his contract, and he’s 1-2 coming off a loss. So he has to win this to stay in there. So this kind of depends on how he fights.” There’s two distinct possibilities, Davis suggested: “he can either come and work really hard to get that win, or he can hold you against the cage. But I don’t think they’ll re-sign him if he does that.” Which should allow for an entertaining scrap. “I can see it going all three rounds and being a good fight that people will really enjoy, but I can also see me knocking him out with a head kick in the second round. Maybe end of the first.”
Wouldn’t that be an incredible start to his UFC career?
Brandon Davis faces Kyle Bochniak at UFC 220 Saturday, January 20 at the TD Garden in Boston, MA. The bout will air free on Fox Sports 1 as part of the televised prelims, which kick off at 8PM EST.