Bellator will kick off its Summer Series at Bellator 71 on Friday, as eight light heavyweight fighters will enter a tournament to determine who will receive the promotion’s next title shot.

Chris Davis is one of the eight hopefuls who will compete at The Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in Chester, W.Va.

Davis has been fighting professionally since 2008, with the majority of his training coming at Nashville MMA in downtown Nashville. The Music City fighter is confident coming into this fight with the group of guys he has working with him, some of who are competing at another event this Friday as well.

“I’ve been working a lot with Josh Schockman, who is cornering me Friday night, and Shawn Hammonds on jiu-jitsu. I was lucky enough to have a lot of my training partners have a fight the same night as mine, but they’re fighting in Nashville for XFC,” Davis told The MMA Corner in a recent interview. “John Salter is my main training partner for this fight, and Dustin West and I have done some sparring and grappling getting ready for this fight.”

Chris Davis (R) works for a takedown (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“The Professional” is no stranger to tournaments, as he competed in last year’s Bellator light heavyweight tournament as well. However, his time in the bracket didn’t last long, as he was defeated by Christian M’Pumbu by third-round TKO. While the loss was disappointing, Davis has learned from his mistakes and will be better prepared on Friday.

“The big thing (I learned) was don’t show up out of shape. I showed up to that fight and wasn’t in shape. I had some things going on with my other camp and I moved from Tuscaloosa to Nashville, and I had some issues there. Five weeks out of the fight, I was like 245, and not a muscular 245, a fat 245,” he said with a laugh. “I got in the fight and I was up two rounds going into the third, and then it felt like the battery was disconnected. My body was like, ‘Ah, screw it man,’ and (M’Pumbu) ended up catching me by TKO, but I think that’s what makes a good fighter into a great fighter is if you can take those things in your life and learn from them. You push yourself a little harder and you work a little more, so I feel ready for this fight.”

The opponent for the Nashville-trained fighter on Friday will be Travis Wiuff, who recently defeated the current Bellator light heavyweight champion M’Pumbu in a non-title bout. Davis admires the career of his counterpart, but feels there are some areas where he can exploit “Diesel.”

“I think he’s a great fighter. He’s been in the sport for a very long time and had like 80 fights. I’ve got a lot of respect for his career, but I haven’t heard a ton about his accolades,” admitted Davis. “I think he’s 34 or 35, so he’s approaching the end of his career. That’s where I’m going to look to expose. I think he’s a big 205er, so I think that weight cut to 205 is a tough cut for him, at least I hope it is.

“People say he’s big, well I don’t see big. I see slow. People say he’s got all that muscle and will be strong; well, with all that muscle, his cardio isn’t going to be great. I’m just going to try and expose his weaknesses.”

Even with the huge experience advantage his opponent will have over him, Davis isn’t worried about this area of the tale of the tape.

“The game plan basically is I’m going to try and turn this into a kickboxing match, because I think he’s stuck to his comfort zone a little bit—that is he takes you down and beats you up,” explained Davis. “As far as experience goes, if a guy is fighting that’s got 45 (fights) and he’s fighting a guy that’s got 85 (fights), I don’t think the guy with 85 has the edge in the experience column. The guy who has 45 is still incredibly experienced that fighting a guy with 85 isn’t going to make a difference.

“But I’ve got 13 professional fights—a little over 20 if you count my amateur career—so I’m used to the weight cut and the show of it all. I don’t think the experience is going to matter until we’re in the ring, (but) even there I already know my game plan and that’s turning it into kickboxing match.”

Coming into a tournament, different fighters have different mindsets. Some enter with the motivation that they are the person to beat, but others take things slow and don’t become overconfident. Davis isn’t taking any opponent lightly, but the real focus for “The Professional” is to get his rematch against the champion, M’Pumbu.

Chris Davis (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“I’m definitely not looking past anyone, but with the tournament format, it’s in your mind that the goal is to win the tournament,” stated the Nashville MMA fighter. “I think you definitely have to take it one step at a time, and that’s my goal is to take one fight at a time and don’t overlook anyone.

“But my long term goal is to get that title shot and fight M’Pumbu again, and really the belt is just an added bonus. I want that rematch with M’Pumbu (because) I should’ve beat him in the first round, but I’ve learned from it and I’m going to get that title shot. But right now, I’m focused on beating Travis Wiuff on Friday.”

The former U.S. Marine has a solid group of guys around him, a good mindset, and has everything laid out for how he will walk out with his hand raised at Bellator 71.

“I think what’s gonna happen is we’re going to come out, trade a little bit, and whether I hit him a few times or not, he’s going to start pressuring for the takedown,” Davis predicted. “I think most of the first round is going to be defending the takedown, or if he does get it, it’s going to be trying to get up. If it gets late in the round and I’m on my back, I’m going to look too for a submission. But in the second round, I think the pace will slow down and I’ll really be able to open up with kickboxing.”

“If you want a prediction, I’d say TKO in the second or third round for the win.”

Chris would like to thank Head Shot, Stand-up Fighter, everyone at Nashville MMA, John Salter, Shawn Hammonds, Chris Barnhizer, Josh Schockman, Lance Patrick, and Dustin West, also his sister for being so supportive and his fiancé.

Photo: Chris Davis (red gloves) battles current Bellator light heavyweight champion Christian M’Pumbu (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.