Marcus Davis file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
When UFC welterweight Marcus Davis looks at Nate Diaz, he sees a lot of himself in the 25-year-old Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter.
So, perhaps it's only appropriate that "The Irish Hand Grenade" and Diaz face each other Saturday in a crossroads bout on the main card of UFC 118 at the TD Garden in Boston.
"(Diaz) grew up in a much tougher area than I did, but the similarities are there," Davis said during an interview on the Sherdog Radio Network's "Savage Dog Show" Wednesday. "I was out of my house and living on my own at a very young age. I was a father two months before my 17th birthday and before all that, I did six months in a juvenile detention center and was in a lot of trouble. I can understand why he feels the way he does and why he's always giving everybody the bird and feeling like he's not getting the respect he deserves. I can understand it and it's real. Some guys are fake and trying to be something else, but that's who he is, both he and his brother. I can understand that. I'm not condoning that and it's not what I'm about now, but I was like that at one time."
The 37-year-old Davis stopped a two-fight losing streak with his second-round technical knockout against Jonathan Goulet at UFC 113 in May. A member of Team Sityodtong, Davis has a 9-4 mark inside the Octagon. Fourteen of his 17 career victories have come by knockout, TKO or submission.
Prior to being cast as a member of Season 2 of "The Ultimate Fighter" series, Davis was just 3-2 as a professional mixed martial arts fighter and was struggling to make the transition from the world of professional boxing. His personal life wasn't much better.
"The day I sent in my DVD to be on 'The Ultimate Fighter,’ I was living in a barn, (had) been divorced twice, didn't have custody of my kids and didn't even own a car," said Davis. "I was going through a really hard time in my life. I used to live in a barn with an old army sniper and he was way more paranoid than I was. He would bury some rifle ammo and hide his sniper rifle. He had rifle ammo buried in his parents' backyard because he swore there was going to be some kind of time when people were going to try and take away his freedom to own firearms and stuff."
Now, Davis has custody of his children, has rekindled a relationship with his second wife and owns two successful fitness gyms.
"I have lots of toys and a great retirement plan," said Davis. "I went from having absolutely nothing to having something. It's been an unbelievable ride for me."
Davis -- who holds wins over Goulet, Chris Lytle, Paul Kelly, Shonie Carter and Pete Spratt -- faces a tough opponent in “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Diaz, who has posted seven wins in 10 UFC appearances. Diaz, brother of Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, last fought in March, when he stopped Rory Markham on first-round punches in his welterweight debut at UFC 111. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, Diaz had 11 finishes (three knockouts, eight submissions) in his 12 victories.
Prior to the win over Markham, Diaz had lost three of his previous four fights, all at 155 pounds. The skid started with a split-decision loss to Clay Guida at UFC 94 in January 2009 and was followed by a unanimous decision setback at the hands of Joe Stevenson at "The Ultimate Fighter 9" Finale in June 2009. He rebounded with a second-round guillotine choke submission of Melvin Guillard at UFC Fight Night 19 in September 2009, but then lost another split decision to Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 20 in January, prompting his move up to 170.
Davis said he'd like to use his boxing skills to his advantage against Diaz, but added that he wasn't afraid if the fight went to the ground.
"Nate's a dangerous kid," said Davis. "He's good at everything. He fancies himself a little bit of a boxer. He and his brother like to use their hands more than they do kicking or their knees and elbows standing up. There's a big difference between boxing and being a professional boxer. Obviously, I don't want to end up in his guard and want to keep it standing, but I spent three weeks with Dustin Hazelett doing jiu-jitsu and I've worked a lot on my defense and anti jiu-jitsu game. It can be a very interesting, exciting fight if I'm able to implement my game plan."
Some pre-fight prognostications have Davis as an underdog against Diaz, but he doesn't mind that at all.
"My brother-in-law sent me an article from Sherdog predicting what would happen in the fight and it said I was pretty much screwed wherever the fight takes place," said Davis. "It said whether it was standing or on the ground, I'd lose by TKO. That doesn't bother me because it makes me focus even more. If it's the author's or anybody else's opinion, whether it's me dominating or him coming out and submitting me in the first round, it doesn't mean much. That and $2.25 still won't get you a cup of coffee nowadays."