Phil Davis is well aware his first fight with Ryan Bader wasn't the most fan-friendly contest.
“Mr. Wonderful,” who’s now the Bellator 205-pound champion, competed against Bader back in January 2015 on the main card of UFC on FOX 14, which took place in Stockholm, Sweden. The light heavyweight match-up ended in a somewhat controversial manner, as Bader defeated Davis via split decision in a lackluster fight. Now, over two years later, the two former UFC light heavyweight contenders will run it back a second time in the headlining slot of Bellator 180 on June 24 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
And Davis blames the unusual timing of UFC on FOX 14 as one of the biggest reasons why he didn’t have an exciting showing against Bader.
“I will tell you this, to anybody that watched that, sorry,” Davis said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. “But I will also tell you this, that the fight was aired live on the United States and we were nine hours ahead, so the card started here in Stockholm, Sweden at 4 a.m. You shouldn’t be doing anything at 4 a.m. If you're driving home at 4 a.m., don't. If you're checking emails at 4 a.m., don't. Don't do anything except sleep at 4 a.m., that’s what everyone should be doing at 4 a.m., okay?
“There were two schools of thought, and it’s a crap shoot either way. So you could either come out early and get acclimated to the time, and then get up and fight at 4 a.m., which is still dumb, or you could do what I tried — and I just want to preface this with it’s still dumb. So we tried to stay on California time, and we were getting up at 2 a.m. and training at 4 a.m., and trying to stay on Pacific the entire time until the fight happened. But here’s what ended up happening: throughout the week, you have to do a bunch of media obligations with local TV, radio, media scrums and all that stuff. But that’s all at a normal, decent time, 11 a.m., 10 a.m, 1 p.m., and that’s during my sleeping time, so it was just ridiculous and terrible. If I could redo something, I would’ve removed myself from that fight card. It was just hard.”
To this day, Davis hasn’t watched his fight with Bader, and despite many saying he should’ve won the decision, the 32-year-old fighter doesn’t want take any credit away from Bader’s victory, but he does vow to punish Bader in the upcoming rematch.
“I think I only watched one round, got pissed and turned it off,” Davis said. “To me it wasn’t controversial, I’m not going to protest it. Once they say it’s a loss, I'm like, ‘cool, time to move on and get better.’ To me, there is no like, ‘oh, I didn’t really lose.’ Forget that. It’s just, ‘okay, you lost, now what are you going to do?’ And that also went into me not watching it.
“I like wins and losses. When you lose, there is no excuse to lose, and I don't want to say to Ryan, ‘oh you didn't really win.’ You know what, ‘you won, and now I'm going to punish you for it,’ that’s how I feel about it.”
Bader, who signed with Bellator earlier this year, was originally scheduled to make his promotional debut against Muhammed Lawal, however “King Mo” was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. Davis is happy he’s the one welcoming Bader to Bellator, and not “King Mo.”
“Around me there is a three-way rematch,” Davis explained. “There’s Liam McGeary, there is “King Mo,” and then there is Ryan Bader. So no matter what, I have three rematches. So I thought maybe he [Scott Coker] wanted to put the best contender in front of me, and I was like, ‘yeah, I'm kind of okay with that.’ But the other reason I was pissed about it, is that I honestly think “King Mo” would’ve beat Ryan Bader, and I didn't want “King Mo” to beat him before I got the chance to beat him.
“I want to put that loss on his [Bader] record first and foremost. See, it worked out better this way, now I can put an L on his record and then “King Mo” can fight him next.”