BREWER, Maine — Marcus Davis walked into his gym with computer in hand, fresh off a weekend visit to Philadelphia where he took part in his weekly online radio show and served as a commentator for a card of mixed martial arts bouts.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” said the former boxer and longtime MMA practitioner of his recent foray into broadcasting, which can be heard each Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. by searching the Internet for “Pull No Punches Radio.”
Known as “The Irish Hand Grenade,” the Houlton native and Bangor resident is busy these days not only pursuing media interests but operating Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy locations in Brewer and Portland, and working to open another gym soon near his ancestral home in Waterford, Ireland.
Those interests likely will serve as the foundation for the next phase of Davis’ career in mixed martial arts, for the end of his time as an active competitor is drawing near.
That end may have been accelerated earlier this month when the 38-year-old Davis suffered a first-round loss to Mark Casserly in their ISKA 185-pound world kickboxing championship bout in Dublin.
Both fighters were feeling each other out in the opening moments of the match when Casserly launched a high leg kick toward the left side of Davis’ neck.
The kick landed near the sciatic nerve and jugular vein, leaving Davis’ unable to move his left side for approximately 20 seconds and resulting in a sudden end to the fight.
“It’s kind of like when you hit your funny bone, only it’s your whole side that feels numb,” Davis said. “You’re stuck that way for a few seconds and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re stuck there until it passes.
A Facebook entry by Davis in the immediate aftermath of that fight suggested retirement was in the offing, but later reflection indicates that while Davis likely won’t be an active fighter beyond 2012, retirement may not be quite as imminent.
“My wife [Lara] and I are talking about it,” Davis said. “She said she wanted to wait until this fight had kind of subsided in my head and to make sure I wasn’t just having an emotional reaction to it like I did on Facebook.
“When I’m ready to talk about it, she said she’d be ready to discuss it with me,” Davis said. “My wife’s a health professional, and she doesn’t like what I do at all but she knows it’s what I’ve chosen to do and what I’ve done my whole life. For health reasons I do need to look at hanging it up really soon, so that’s the motivation in my head.
“I have other things that I do. My gyms, I’ve got a supplement company I work for, I’m doing commentating and I’ve got other things going so I still will be involved in mixed martial arts or the fighting biz, I just won’t be getting kicked in the neck anymore. I’ve just got to figure it out,” Davis said.
Davis went 32-2 as an amateur boxer and 17-1 in the pro ranks and at one point was the top-ranked middleweight in New England before contractual issues soured him on the sport just as mixed martial arts was taking hold nationally during the late 1990s.
Davis made the switch and is credited with a 22-9 professional MMA record, including 9-5 during a five-year run in the top-tier Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC.
“I’ve probably had 40 or 50 [MMA] fights altogether, along with eight kickboxing matches,” he said.
Through all those experiences, Davis has seen his sport become more sophisticated thanks in part to rule changes that have helped clean up MMA’s image and an attention to medical detail for its combatants designed to ensure their good health both before and after fights.
Such changes, in turn, have helped make the sport more marketable to the masses, not only through sold-out shows and myriad television programming but merchandising efforts that range from MMA-based conditioning classes for women and video games to collector cards and comic books.
“I absolutely knew it was going to happen,” Davis said. The day I made the switch it was because I knew it was going to happen. I had an advantage in some respects because I was already a professional athlete making the jump into the sport. But I knew people were going to jump into this sport once they understood and realized how it worked.”
Davis expects mixed martial arts’ growth to continue on a global level.
“Every country in the world knows what a fight is, and every country in this world has some sort of fighting, combat-oriented sport,” Davis said. “People around the world have been fighting one way or another for centuries and it’s going to continue. I think you’ll see MMA as an Olympic sport like Greco-Roman wrestling at some point.”
Davis was instrumental in the successful 2009 effort to legalize the sport in Maine and subsequently was involved in the first-ever mixed martial arts card held in the state. He’s pleased with how the sport has been received, as evidenced by large crowds for cards in Portland, Lewiston and Biddeford.
“Maine has opened its doors and provided the opportunity for guys now to train at home and take fights and still stay around the area and build their mixed martial arts record here,” he said. “I think it’s helped grow the passion and the love for the sport with these guys being able to fight near their hometown. It makes a difference being a hometown fighter.”
Davis envisions a possible hometown scenario for his own final competitive foray inside the cage later this year.
“I haven’t got anything right now that I’m absolutely doing, but I am in negotiations with two organizations that have shown interest in having a match here in Bangor, Maine,” he said. “If I decide to fight on that card in Bangor, Maine, that will be my last fight. This is where I started my professional career and this is where I’ll end it, in Bangor.”