BOSTON — The fire pit was at full flame, as was the nearby barbecue grill.
And none other than Marcus Davis was the main cook as he took a brief respite from training for his bout later this month in Portland, Ore., against Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy in the first round of the Bellator MMA Season 9 lightweight tournament.
The occasion was a milestone marker for the veteran of nearly three decades in combat sports. On that date, Aug. 24, “The Irish Hand Grenade” turned 40.
“We had all the guys over from Team Irish,” said Davis of the other fighters who train at his Brewer gym. “There must have been 25 people there and we had everything going. We cooked 24 pounds of chicken and 7 pounds of grass-fed beef.”
Such attention to dietary detail has been a focal point of Davis’ training regimen during the late stages of his fighting career, whether it’s a birthday or just another day.
It’s even more important now, as Davis is dropping from welterweight (170 pounds) to compete in this 155-pound tournament, which if he’s successful would require three fights within several months in his quest for the $100,000 total first prize and a guaranteed title shot against Bellator MMA lightweight champion Michael Chandler.
These days he’s on a gluten-free diet and closely monitoring his carbohydrate and sodium intake, in part to time his drop from a walking-around weight of around 185 pounds to the lightweight limit just in time for the Sept. 27 fight — which will be televised live on Spike TV.
“I’ve kept a journal of all my weight cutting for the last three years, so I can look back and gauge exactly where I should be so many days out from a fight,” said Davis, who is completing his training for the Sarnavskiy bout in Boston. “I’m right on target right now, right where I’m supposed to be.
“The big thing is to get the weight off right on time for the fight, so I just need to keep on it.”
Away from the kitchen and inside the cage, Davis has focused much of his preparation on a return to his fighting roots.
The former boxer has reunited with Massachusetts-based boxing coach Joe Lake, whose resume also includes stints with former world champion Dana Rosenblatt and “Irish” Mickey Ward, the protagonist in the 2010 movie “The Fighter.”
“When I began my MMA career I was purely a boxer,” said Davis, who went 17-1-2 in the pro boxing ranks before retiring in 2000 and turning his attention to mixed martial arts. “Everyone started taking me down so I had to begin working on my submission defense and grappling, and as I continued to do that it got much more comfortable and I relied less on my hands.
“Now I’ve been training with my original boxing coach, and it’s really revitalized my hands. I started working on it, and 10 days later I have it back. It was always there for me, just dormant. I just hadn’t worked on it.”
Davis (22-9 in pro MMA bouts) believes his striking game will be important against the 24-year-old Sarnavskiy, a product of Omsk, Russia, with a 22-1 record that includes six knockouts and 12 victories by submission.
“My opponent is known as a submission specialist,” said Davis. “He’s not just looking to win the fight and neither am I. I’ve got to go out and finish this kid as fast as I can.
“There are just some things I hadn’t really worked on, but since I’ve been training with Joe they’ve come back. The timing is the big thing, along with hand speed, head movement and counter-punching.”
Davis said he spends an hour or two a day working just on his hands, then trains on his grappling techniques with Boston-area jiu-jitsu black belt Mike DeLuca.
“I’ve gone to work and added some cool tools to my game,” said Davis, “and added them in a way that I can use them in a real-fight situation.”
Westbrook’s Gorman signs with NEF
Maine MMA bantamweight champion Paul Gorman has signed a multifight promotional contract with New England Fights that will kick off with a title defense on the promotion’s Nov. 9 NEF XI show at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
Gorman’s opponent for that bout has not yet been named.
The Westbrook High School graduate began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts under Jay Jack and Amanda Buckner at the Academy of Mixed Martial Arts more than 10 years ago and recently was awarded his black belt in BJJ.
Gorman started fighting professionally in 2005, and last November he defeated Adam Toussaint at NEF V to capture the state bantamweight championship.
“This deal definitely makes sense for me right now,” said Gorman in a press release. “Fighting in Maine is a huge thing for me. I really enjoy it. It’s nice to be able to fight at home. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting fights as of late. It’s just going to be a great partnership for us to help make it all happen. I just couldn’t be happier to get something set up that’s going to help guarantee me some fights so that I can generate some consistency in my activity level. I just can’t wait to get going.”
Ex-NEF champ to make Bellator debut Friday
An NEF alumnus of sorts, Desmond “The Predator” Green of Buffalo, N.Y., will compete in the first round of Bellator MMA’s Season 9 featherweight (145-pound) tournament in Temecula, Calif., on Friday night.
Green (8-1) will fight Brazilian Fabricio Guerreiro (17-2) in one of five bouts to be televised live on Spike TV from the Pechanga Resort & Casino.
The winner of that eight-man tournament will earn $100,000 and a title bout against the Bellator featherweight world champion, currently American Pat Curran.
Green, formerly an all-American wrestler at the University of Buffalo, won the NEF Maine lightweight (155-pound) championship in May with a second-round technical knockout of former Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor Henry Martinez at NEF VII in Lewiston.
The Team Bombsquad-trained fighter subsequently relinquished that title when he signed with Bellator.
The bout against Martinez was Green’s third pro fight under the NEF banner. He previously scored wins over Bruce Boyington at NEF IV and over Brandon Fleming at NEF V.
Green also won an amateur bout on NEF’s inaugural card in February 2012.
NEF will crown a new lightweight champion on Sept. 21 during its NEF X card in Lewiston, as Team Irish’s Jon Lemke (3-1) of Brewer will take on John Ortolani (7-7) for the vacant title.
“John Ortolani impressed us with his dominant submission win over Bruce Boyington last fall in Lewiston,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “The other challenger that stood out was Jon Lemke. That was the fight we wanted to fill this void.”