BANGOR, Maine — Marcus Davis’ scheduled mixed martial arts bout against Darrius Heyliger in Lewiston on May 18 likely will be his last as a welterweight.
But it almost certainly won’t be his last fight.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender known as “The Irish Hand Grenade” recently signed a long-term contract with Bellator MMA, the Newport Beach, Calif., organization that is the nation’s second-largest MMA promotion company.
The new deal replaces a three-fight contract Davis signed with Bellator before his March 21 debut with that organization on a nationally televised show staged in Lewiston.
“It really just came about,” said Davis. “They said they thought I was valuable to the company and fit well with them. I told them what my goals and plans were as far as fighting goes, and we came to an agreement.
“This contract is not fight based, but more time based. I’m looking at a couple of years, but I’m taking it fight by fight right now and just going by how I feel. Right now I’ve never felt healthier.”
Davis’ Bellator debut against Californian Waachiim Spiritwolf was ruled a first-round no-contest when Spiritwolf did not continue after absorbing an unintentional knee near the groin.
But the atmosphere Davis helped bring to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee that night as well as his recent performances in the cage fueled negotiations that led to the upgraded contract.
“We wanted to create a dynamic where Bellator would be the stage where Marcus could finish out his career,” said Bellator MMA chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “I’ve been an MMA fan for a lot of years, and I’ve watched Marcus fight for a lot of those years. He’s got a huge heart, he’s very aggressive, and he just brings the fight every time he steps into the cage.”
The 39-year-old Davis said the contract does not call for a specific number of bouts, but commences when he takes part in an eight-man Bellator lightweight tournament scheduled to begin in September.
Davis still will fight on the New England Fights card in Lewiston this month but will not participate in a previously scheduled “Team USA vs. The World” competition slated for late June.
“I will retire with Bellator. I’m going to finish my career with Bellator, that’s where I feel like I really belong at this point,” said Davis. “My career really started with Spike TV [which airs Bellator shows], they were the ones that really pushed me early on.”
A total purse of $100,000 goes to the winner of the three-month Bellator lightweight tournament, which includes quarterfinals, semifinals and the tournament final. The tourney winner also earns a guaranteed title shot against the reigning Bellator lightweight champion, currently undefeated Michael Chandler.
Chandler is set to defend his title in June against Dave Jansen, the winner of the main event of the Lewiston card, and also has another title defense scheduled against Dave “The Caveman” Rickles later this year.
The title fight involving the Season 9 lightweight tournament champion likely would be held in February or March 2014.
The 5-foot-9-inch Davis (21-9) most recently has competed in the welterweight (170-pound) division, but since converting from boxing to mixed martial arts a decade ago he also has fought in even heavier weight classes.
“My whole UFC career I always struggled with weight classes,” he said. “My reach wasn’t long enough and I wasn’t big enough to fight at 185 or 205, but I used to walk around at 210 or 215.
“For years and years I dealt with a lot of injuries and weight issues.”
Davis said recent dietary changes, including the elimination of refined sugars and flours, have enabled him to live and fight at a much lower weight.
“I almost called [New England Fights matchmaker] Matt Peterson to ask him to make the fight against Heyliger at 155,” said Davis, who on Tuesday weighed in at 168 pounds.
That trend also encouraged Davis to get involved in the Bellator lightweight (155-pound) tournament this fall as part of his new contract.
“I’m eating as clean as I can,” he said. “If I keep eating healthy and keep doing what I’m doing and keep dropping weight, it will be nothing for me to get to 155 to fight as a lightweight.”
Rebney expressed excitement about having Davis involved in his promotion’s upcoming tournament.
“Marcus is completely healthy with no injuries, and when we spoke he was really committed about moving from 170 to 155 where he felt he’d be much quicker and much more powerful,” he said. “He’s set to make a hardcore run with us as a lightweight.
“Our primary focus is built around what he can do in the cage, but what’s also been impressive is how Marcus has carried the torch for mixed martial arts in Maine, including providing free self-defense lessons for women at his gym. He’s someone with a passion for the game and with a passion for giving back.”
The contract between Bellator and Davis does not guarantee that the promotion will stage a second card in Maine, but Rebney has indicated a general interest in returning to the Pine Tree State.
Rebney said the size of the venue and the crowd of approximately 3,000 for the March Bellator card in Lewiston was “pretty much in our sweet spot,” adding that last year the promotion’s crowds averaged approximately 3,400 per event.
The only downfall with the first Maine Bellator card, he said, was that nearly every fight ended in the first round, making for a short evening of actual action in the cage.
“I would love to bring Bellator back to Maine again,” said Rebney. “Everything about the [March] fight card was good except the end result.
“The good news was we got a chance to see the way people responded to Marcus and got the chance to talk with him, but there was no way to plan for what happened there that night. There was an incredible crowd, but literally every fight but one ended early.
“I’d love to come back and do it right.”