Alexis Davis has won eight of her last nine fights. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Alexis Davis has had her eyes set on Ronda Rousey for a long time.
Davis has quietly racked up five consecutive victories -- two in Invicta Fighting Championships and three more in the Ultimate Fighting Championship -- over the past two years, with a focus on challenging for the UFC women’s bantamweight crown. Instead, Liz Carmouche, Miesha Tate and Sara McMann took their shots while Davis looked on. Worse yet, the names of Gina Carano and Cristiane Justino were floated about as possible opponents for Rousey.
“Obviously, I wanted a shot as soon as I could, but what frustrated me most was when you had names like ‘Cyborg’ come up; you had names like Gina Carano come up,” Davis told Sherdog.com. “They’re not even in the same weight class, and people were talking about them before they were talking about me. Gina hasn’t even fought in I don’t know how long. It was pretty frustrating.
“This is [Rousey’s] third title defense, and McMann hadn’t even fought in the UFC yet [when she got a title shot],” she added. “She was supposed to fight Sarah Kaufman and something happened and she had to back out. Before she even had a [UFC] fight, she was getting a title shot.”
This is not to say Davis craves the extensive media attention surrounding anyone attempting to dethrone the champion.
“I hate attention. Are you kidding me?” she said, revealing she is extremely uncomfortable standing in front of crowds and gets embarrassed when asked to demonstrate techniques. “You need exposure and I understand that’s part of it, but I’m much happier sitting at the gym training.”
Davis will not complain about Rousey receiving the lion’s share of media play.
“She’s the champion and been the defending champion more than once,” she said. Her strategy: “Sneak in there like a ninja and then take her out.”
Unlike Rousey, Davis was not an athlete growing up. She describes herself as a regular kid from a close family background, living in Canada with her hardworking parents and three siblings.
“I didn’t start until I was 18, which I think strikes people as odd because you have fighters like Ronda and the new hybrid of kids coming up doing high school wrestling,” she said. “That wasn’t my case.”
Davis began training in muay Thai and kickboxing to get in shape, rose up the ranks as a Raging Wolf champion and then moved to California to step up her game.
“I almost feel like I’ve lived different lives,” she said. “I was a girl from a small town doing this for fun, and then I kind of ventured out a bit. I was going to travel down to Florida for a few months, and then I just packed up all my things and said, ‘You know, let’s just try California.’”
Davis trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu in San Jose with Caio Terra and standup at CSA in Dublin. She has also been working on her wrestling for this camp with Team Alpha Male.
Back when Davis was getting her start, she remembers looking up to fighters like Tara LaRosa, Roxanne Modafferi and Amanda Buckner.
“I even remember watching Julie Kedzie when she first started, and I was like, ‘Wow, those chicks are awesome,” she said. “There’s a lot of great female athletes. We’re starting to get a little bit older now and it’s the next generation’s turn, but they’re the veterans of this sport.”
At the beginning of her career, it sometimes took Davis upwards of 18 months to secure a fight. Like many other female mixed martial artists, she would accept bouts on a few weeks’ notice, fight opponents who missed weight and jump between divisions.
“You didn’t do it for the money [back then],” she said. “You’d do it because you loved it.”
Davis will challenge Rousey for her bantamweight title in the UFC 175 “Weidman vs. Machida” co-main event on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Unbeaten at 9-0, the 27-year-old champion has finished all nine of her opponents, eight of them inside the first round. Still, Davis sees holes in the decorated judoka’s game.
“I think some of her biggest strengths are her biggest weaknesses,” she said. “Obviously, she has a judo game like none other as an Olympic judo medalist, but that still leaves a lot of gaps in her game, as well. Her explosiveness, her cardio could die out; she’s been caught several times giving up her back. Her striking … obviously, that’s something that’s improved a lot, too; all these positions in her game she’s been working on improving. It’s all a matter of timing and you have to take advantage of that, that split-second moment.”
Davis’ husband and Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach, Flavio Meier, likes her chances. He points out that none of Rousey’s previous opponents had Davis’ 10-plus years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu experience upon which to call.
“It’s a great fight for us because we can win on striking and we can win on the ground,” Meier said. “When Ronda faces someone who has superior striking, she throws them to the ground. In this case, it’s like throwing the alligator in the water and jumping with them in the water. It’s not going to help her. The ground is Alexis’ world. Ronda is good at judo, but judo is just throws; they don’t work so much on the ground. Before, she was able to counter the good strikers and take them to the ground. Alexis is an excellent striker, and if she goes to the ground, Alexis is even better because of her jiu-jitsu, so it’s a bad matchup for Ronda.”
Meier foresees Davis escaping Rousey’s dreaded armbar and capitalizing on her shortcomings.
“The only thing where we feel Ronda has a little bit of an advantage is on the throws, which doesn’t really help her if she can’t finish her opponent on the ground,” he said. “I think we’re going to push hard from the beginning. Ronda she likes to come in strong, so we’re going to come in just as strong.”