For Bellator MMA prospect Joey Davis, winning was a humbling experience. As a wrestler, he was perfect, but while it got him a Bellator contract, it didn’t change much else. Now, with a fresh start in 2019, he’s coming for the money.
Bellator 219’s Joey Davis doesn’t make the walk — the one at the end of which he’ll be handed his degree — until May. A student of Notre Dame College of Ohio, Davis, a.k.a. ‘Black Ice,’ has juggled his studies and fight career thus far in his tenure with Bellator MMA. Another member of the fast-rising Team Bodyshop, Davis is 4-0 in the promotion so far.
He’s looking to make it five wins at Bellator 219 this week, against an opponent that was still in the process of being selected when Cageside Press spoke to the welterweight prospect. That’s after original opponent Jesse Merritt withdrew from the fight.
Four fights since 2016 isn’t exactly a breakneck, Cowboy-esque pace, but Davis can be forgiven, given he was juggling fighting and his academics. The NCAA Division II wrestler also finished his college career an undefeated 133-0 — the first time in history that a Division II athlete remained perfect. And of late, he’s been spending time in the gym, just “training, and getting more comfortable with being an MMA fighter.”
Moving forward, Davis expects to be a little more active. “Absolutely,” he told us ahead of Bellator 219. Then added, “It depends on my coach. When he says I’m ready, I’ve got to listen to him. Coach Antonio McKee has been in my corner a long time, and he just knows fighting, he knows guys, the ins and outs of a lot of situations.” With that in mind, Davis won’t take the next step until his coach says he’s ready, although he added that “I know that I put the work in, I put the effort in, and I’m going to put the time in.”
Antonio McKee, of course, heads up Team Bodyshop, one of the fastest rising camps in the sport at the moment. On what makes the grouping so special, Davis said that a lot of it came back to “building a legacy for our coach Antonio. Not necessarily [that] we all fight for him, or want to be like him or anything like that. But he left such a good trademark on the MMA game, he left such a great mark on the game that we’re all just trying to beat that standard.”
McKee was an MFC champion, who competed in the UFC, Dream, IFL, and other promotions throughout a career that began in 1999. While he never made the biggest splash in the UFC, his presence in the sport has certainly been felt. Now, he coaches some of the best, but the way Davis looks at it, “I don’t have a belt in MMA, his son [A.J. McKee] doesn’t’ have a belt in MMA, [Aaron] Pico doesn’t have a belt in MMA, [Baby] Slice doesn’t have a belt in MMA. Antonio does. He has a lot of people who were champions. When we go to the gym every day, it’s just an honor to be part of somebody who’s been in the game that long and coached so many great MMA fighters, been around so many great MMA fighters, been around the profession so long.”
“There’s just so many positives,” of working with McKee, he added. That inspires Davis to have the worth ethic to succeed, and put the time in.
As to whether stumbles by teammate Pico and other wrestlers like Ed Ruth have influenced his approach to MMA, Davis told us that “I’m more towards how my body’s feeling, how I’m feeling mentally, how I’m feeling spiritually.”
He’s also not shy about pushing ahead. “I’m the type of guy that, I’m very to the point. I like to get it over with when I can. What I mean by that is, if I could be champion now, I would. But I know there’s stepping stones, it’s the way the game is.”
While the fight with Merritt isn’t going ahead, Davis was expecting “a brawler, and it would have put on a show for the fans. That’s what it’s all about, giving the people what they wanted to see.” Instead of Merritt, it now appears Davis will be paired up with 1-0 Marcus Anthony. Regardless of opponent, Davis wasn’t worried, and was focusing on himself.
“I guess I’m at the stage right now where I don’t really have a fighting style,” he admitted. “I don’t know what I’m going to go out there and do. I just know I’m very dynamic, I like to please the fans, I like to show them what I can do and what I’ve been working on.”
“In training camp I work on everything, just like every other fighter. That’s why when we go out there, it’s just exciting to see what we can do.” There’s no rush quite like winning a fight, he agreed. “Every fight I’ve won, I’ve come back a different person.”
Expanding on that, he explained that the feeling was “just like, ‘wow, I can’t believe I’ve done that. I can’t believe I won this fight. Wow I’ve been working on this, and I done that.'” Which drives the preparation side of things. “Every day you elevate, elevate, elevate. You go with this training partner, this guy’s good at boxing, this guy’s good at throwing a 1-2-3-4 with a kick, this guy’s throwing a spinning back fist to a Ninja Turtle back flip kick. It’s just like wow, it’s truly a blessing. I just try to go in there, when I do win I like to win in a high fashion, I want to win in a devastating style.”
“That’s why it feels so good, when you do win in that way, it makes you a different person.”
Davis is nothing but not honest at this early stage of his career. And perhaps that’s because, while he’s young in his MMA career, he was a veteran in the wrestling world. 133 matches. 133 wins. Now that he’s turned pro as a fighter, however, he admits that “I just want to make a lot of money. That’s the goal. I want to change the whole lifestyle. I want to change everything around me, I want to change my team. And that’s my goal.”
“I’ve been winning for a long time, and all winning got me was a Bellator contract. And that’s it.”
The work ethic has always been there. As Davis puts it, “I’ve been putting so much work into this since I was a kid. None of this is new.” So he hopes that Bellator gives him the opportunity to make the kind of money that will just change everybody around him, and let “everybody know, especially where I came from, Compton, that it’s very possible. That’s my whole goal, that’s why I’m being a professional fighter.”
And while Davis “never was a guy thinking money” in the past, he admits that it has changed now. “I won so much that to be honest with you, I’m still hungry, I’m still scavenging for things that I never thought I would,” he said. “Now I have a different mentality, coming into the year 2019. Fresh start, I’m done school. Now it’s just changing everybody around me. The championship will come with time.”
Yet he recognizes as well that “I’ve been winning for a long time, and all winning got me was a Bellator contract. And that’s it.” Winning at wrestling didn’t change anything around him, it didn’t make people think any different of him. It certainly didn’t allow him to help those he cares about.
“It was very humbling, winning, but money makes the world go round,” he concluded. “It sucks it got to be that way, but it is what it is. My mentality is just a whole different level now, I’m just a whole different athlete. To answer your question, I’m coming for the money.”
Bellator 219 takes place Friday, March 29 at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, CA. The preliminary card featuring Joey Davis airs on the Bellator MMA app and right here on Cageside Press.