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Bellator’s Joey Davis influenced by LeBron James, ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Malcolm X

Joey Davis
Bellator MMA

Considering the personalities who have come into his orbit at various points in his life, you can’t blame Joey Davis for believing that he’s destined for greatness.

A lifelong friend of fellow Bellator fighter A.J. McKee and his father, 15-year MMA veteran and coach Antonio McKee, the 24-year-old Davis was developing a well-rounded combat sports portfolio long before he had any inclination to step into the cage as a pro. It was on the collegiate wrestling scene that Davis established himself as a star, going 133-0 for Division II Notre Dame College in Euclid, Ohio.

He won four national championships, is the only D-II wrestler to ever go undefeated, and is only the third NCAA wrestler to accomplish the feat (the other two? Mat legend Cael Sanderson who did it in D-I and former UFC fighter Marcus LeVesseur who did it in D-III).

But Davis doesn’t want to be known as just an elite wrestler, nor as just a world champion in MMA. He’s actually still enrolled at Notre Dame College, working to get his degree in communications, and allocating other free time to an internship with Uninterrupted, the digital company founded by four-time NBA MVP LeBron James.

While he’s certainly not shy about being interviewed, his goal is to someday be on the other end of the microphone.

“One day I want to be doing something you’re doing, interviewing people,” Davis told MMA Fighting. “I’m working for LeBron James right now, so I’m pretty much almost getting there. I just gotta get more focused at it, but right now my focus is on the fight.”

“I’m working my internship at Uninterrupted,” Davis continued. “[James] has an interview company pretty much interviewing athletes, talking about their days and things like that, so right now I’m interning for him as well, so I’m pretty busy.”

Another one of Davis’s goals is to actually meet the Cleveland Cavaliers megastar who grew up in Akron, Ohio. Even given his own athletic achievements in the state and his job with James’s company, the two have yet to cross paths, but Davis is confident that it will happen.

“We’re born a day apart, we’re both Capricorn, we were both in the city of Cleveland, I went to college in Cleveland. It’s just not part of God’s plan yet I’m assuming, I’ve got to do a little bit more work to catch up with LeBron James.

“No, I have not met him yet, but that is my dream goal to meet him one day because he’s the only successful black dude I know right now with a lot of money,” Davis joked. “He’s the only guy I know up there who ain’t got too many issues with women or nothing like that as well, so I would love to meet LeBron James one day.”

Davis has a long way to go becoming as successful in MMA as James has been in basketball. “Black Ice” debuted in August 2016 with a unanimous decision win over Keith Cutrone at Bellator 160 and didn’t fight again for another year. In his second bout, he needed just 95 seconds to finish Justin Roswell by TKO.

Two fights in two years may seem like a light schedule for a budding prospect, but it’s all part of Davis’s plan to balance school, business, and cage fighting. He attributes this attitude to his parents, especially a father, Joey Davis, Sr., who instilled in him the importance of having “plans Bs, and Cs, and Ds, and Es.”

Joey Davis posing with his father Joey Davis, Sr. after a win at Bellator 182
Bellator MMA

When Davis’s early football aspirations didn’t work out due to having poor grades, he moved on to have a successful wrestling career, one that was bolstered by the intervention of another famous athlete: Former UFC champion and current Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix participant Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

It was Jackson who gave a Davis an assist early in his career when the developing wrestler was looking to compete overseas.

“‘Rampage’ is like a big uncle to me, I just don’t know if he remembers me,” Davis said. ‘Rampage’ sponsored me one time and that changed my life. He sent me to Amsterdam when I was 13 years old. I competed in the World Championship out there, I took third. I lost to Germany. I was in the 16-and-under division at 13 and he paid $5,000 for me to go out there. I couldn’t afford to go because I was from Compton. Ain’t too many kids make it from my city, they’re either dead or end up in jail.

“All my friends are gangbangers, thugs, and etc., but ‘Rampage’ - I want to cry right now because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been able to go on that trip. And that’s just something I don’t think he remembers how important to my life that was. So me fighting on the same card as ‘Rampage’ [at Bellator 192] is a f**king blessing and I love him to death for that.”

The further back you track Davis’s history, the more you understand how his mindset has been shaped both directly and indirectly by some of the aforementioned names, and why he’s comfortable stating that he’s “the best out of all the wrestlers” that Bellator has signed over the past few years, a list that includes such luminaries as Ed Ruth, Tyrell Fortune, and Aaron Pico.

After all, before Davis even took his first steps, his parents had already pegged him as one meant to direct the pack, not follow it. His first and last name come from his father, his middle name from revolutionary civil rights activist Malcolm X.

“My name is Joel Malcolm Davis and I was named after him because I’m a leader,” Davis said. “I always did my own thing, like coming from Compton you don’t really hear nobody from Compton wrestling. You hear about basketball, football, but what Compton wrestler do you know? So I am a leader and I know that for a fact and that’s why I’m named after him.”

Davis fights Ian Butler in a welterweight bout on the preliminary portion of Bellator 192 on Saturday at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

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