After amassing a perfect 8-0 record through his first four years of MMA competition, Joey Davis abruptly disappeared from the canvas following his last outing in 2020.
As a four-time Division II National Champion in wrestling, the now 29-year-old fighter appeared to have all the pieces to put together a run that would eventually make him a Bellator MMA champion. Just when it looked like he was ready to graduate from the ranks of prospect to serious title contender, Davis took a break from the sport. However, it wasn’t due to injury or some other outside-the-cage situation that forced him to the sidelines.
Instead, Davis revealed that his hiatus was self-chosen because he wanted to take time off so he could actually improve and get better before booking his next fight, which takes place at Bellator 293 on Friday.
“I really wanted [the time off],” Davis told MMA Fighting. “Just to see how much I can develop. I really wanted to work on my craft and just to get really as better as much as I can. Just taking my time and enjoying the little things in life, as much as possible.
“I wanted to get better at every aspect in my skills. I think that it’s important to sit back, get your mind right and just see what it is that’s really going to make you better. There’s a lot of things that I want to improve on and I just hope that all of my practice and everything I’ve been doing is going to get me very prepared for Friday night.”
While ring rust would seem like the biggest concern after nearly three years off, Davis says he’s been tinkering away in the laboratory specifically so he could get ready for this moment when he returned.
He’s been a constant fixture with the Bodyshop team in California, which counts ex-Bellator featherweight champion A.J. McKee among the ranks. Davis has continued to help training partners get ready for fights while he’s been quietly adding new pieces to his own arsenal.
“That was the goal — it’s to shock the world,” Davis said. “These are the things you have to do. Sit back and just dial up on everything. Everything that you can possible. It’s extremely important. That’s exactly what the plan is.
“Everything I took the time for is so I could go out there and just be sharp. To be like all the greats that were in front of me. That’s what I want to do.”
Comparing himself to the version who last fought in 2020, Davis won’t go as far as saying it’s night and day differences, but he definitely feels like a revamped fighter ready to go on a real run towards title contention in Bellator.
“I’m just a lot more focused,” Davis explained. “A lot more determined. Just really, I’m just much better prepared. That’s the great thing. I had my time to sit back and watch a lot of film on myself and to see what I’m really doing out there. Am I doing everything I’m supposed to be doing or can I do more? That’s why I’m mostly excited to be out there on Friday. To just see if everything I’ve been practicing and preparing for, is it going to work?
“That’s just doing everything I possibly can. Taking no shortcuts or anything like that. It’s just mostly putting all my skills in every round and being that hard to beat. I think me, how talented I am, it can really look good out there. That’s what I’m about. Everything that I practice, everything that I do, I just want to make sure I showcase that.”
Even as he prepares to restart his career on Friday, Davis still isn’t trying to sprint to the finish line, and he’s not putting a number on how many fights he wants this year, much less when he hopes to reach title contention.
A huge piece of the puzzle over these last two-plus years was Davis realizing that he had plenty of time to accomplish everything he wanted in his MMA career, which then allowed him the freedom to train, prepare, and get better before competing again.
“A lot of people rush their careers,” Davis said. “I was extremely blessed that I was able to take my time and to prepare as much as I have. Now I’m just ready to showcase that. I’m not in a rush. I’m not in a rush to do anything. I’m ready for anything that my opponent throws at me. I’m just that much more confident and much more comfortable. Not in a rush for anything or anything. I’m just ready to get out there and let the fans know, or whoever supports me for my whole career that it is worth the wait.
“I’m very dangerous. I’m telling you, I’m so hard to beat and just a hard opponent to go against for anybody. You’ve got to worry about so much going against me now.”