In hindsight, Liam McGeary admits he might have been overprepared heading into his second light heavyweight title defense against Phil Davis at Bellator 163 this past November.
The hard work didn’t show, at least in terms of the end result, as Davis dominated the fight to claim a unanimous verdict and the 205-pound strap. It was McGeary’s first loss in 12 professional appearances.
“Everything I did in the training camp was fine. The coaching I got, everything I was learning was spot on. I did too much of it,” McGeary told Sherdog.com. “I was cramming way too much into a 14-week fight camp. It was ridiculous trying to compete four times a day, six days a week. I ain’t no spring chicken, so I have to respect my body. I have to respect the need to rest between training sessions....It was a bit too much.
“My body started feeling fatigued. My body wasn’t really working well with my brain. What my brain wanted my body to do, it just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do... I just started getting frustrated. When you get frustrated things tend to just go out the window and you just lose your s—t.”
The end result was a contest in which “Mr. Wonderful” grounded McGeary and advanced to full mount in all five rounds. The former NCAA national champion wrestler at Penn State University earned multiple 10-8 scorecards in a fight that became increasingly lopsided as time passed. McGeary said that spending most of the last year recovering from a knee injury might have played a role in the loss.
“I knew he was gonna do what he was gonna do. He was a lot heavier than what I thought. Phil’s on top of his game. He’s been on point,” McGeary said. “He competed a lot in 2016 whereas I just sat on my sofa with a bag of ice on my knee, trying to recover and will myself to get back very quickly. So Phil was exactly what I thought he was gonna be, and I wasn’t what I thought I was gonna be. So now I get to fix those mistakes and make my way back up to the title.”
The 34-year-old Englishman will return to action for the first time since that humbling loss when he faces Brett McDermott in the Bellator 173 headliner in Belfast on Friday. The card airs via tape delay in the United States on Spike at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT. McDermott is the third proposed opponent for McGeary on the card after previous foes Chris Fields and Vladimir Filipovic fell through.
While his most recent camp didn’t lack for intensity, McGeary did tone things down a little bit in hopes that it will have a positive effect on his performance come fight night.
“The intensity is still there. The fight camp was not 14 weeks. I’ve respected my body and I’ve respected the need to have a sit down and have a cup of tea instead of going to the next fight camp and the next training session,” he said. “The training sessions have been smarter. The training that I’ve done in these fight camps is precise. I’ve executed what I needed to execute. I’m looking forward to getting in the cage and being the animal that I am.”
None of the aforementioned opponents had the name value of McGeary’s previous three foes -- Davis, Tito Ortiz, Emanuel Newton -- but the ex-champ isn’t questioning the matchmaking.
“This fight is dangerous. Any fight you get into is dangerous, whether they’re a journeyman or a big name,” McGeary said. “I have to prepare myself for a fight and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve trained hard, I’ve trained well and I’ve trained smart. The fight is going to go the way I want it to go. I’m fresh, I’m hungry. I want that win. I want that belt.....I will be getting that back.”