M1 Global Team USA West light heavyweight standout, Raphael Davis

Fresh off of his first round TKO victory at Affliction’s M1 Global season opener in Tacoma, Washington, Light Heavyweight Raphael Davis sits down with PRO MMA (promma.info) to discuss his most recent win, among other things.

Davis, who is 32 and a full time firefighter in the L.A. area, is 5-1 with his only loss being a unanimous decision back in 2006 in the IFL. All five of his victories have been from a stoppage, three being submissions and two TKO’s.

In quite possibly his most notable fight to date, Davis submitted The Ultimate Fighter 8 Finalist, Vinicius Magalhaes in 3:03 of the second round by verbal submission/Rear Naked Choke. Now fighting for Team U.S.A. West in the M1 Global Challenge, Davis has started the year out with a bang, finishing Jair Goncalves Jr. in 4:05 of the very first round via ground and pound.

PRO MMA: Raphael, congrats on the recent win and thanks for taking the time out to talk with us.
Raphael: No problem, thanks for having me.

PRO MMA: By looking at your record, it’s obvious you have good Jiu-Jitsu. Is that where you come from, a BJJ background?
Raphael: No, actually I come from wrestling, I wrestled for Cal-State Bakersfield in my Junior and Senior years. I actually placed 5th in Division 1 so I was an All-American in division 1 for CS Bakersfield. After that I wrestled internationally for the next five years, trying to make the Olympic squad. I qualified for the Olympic team trials in 2000, but didn’t make it in 2004 because I tore my ACL. That’s basically where the Jiu-Jitsu comes from. When I came back to L.A. I started working on Jiu-Jitsu. Now I just kind of flow back and forth between the two styles. You know, with the Jiu-Jitsu, I understand what they’re trying to do with the moves now and the wrestling lets me maneuver out of some positions ’til I’m no longer in danger.

PRO MMA: With that said, do you think that wrestling is the best base to start an MMA career?
Raphael: Well yeah, I mean, even early in my career, I was able to get out of Jiu-Jitsu moves using just pure wrestling. Back then I didn’t know arm bars well at all, didn’t know triangle positions, nothing, yet I was still able to stay out of dangerous positions just using my strong base, controlling a guy’s head and things like that. I think it [wrestling] is by far the best. Just look at how many guys are at the top of the game right now that are just wrestlers, that learn or eventually learn Jiu-Jitsu and eventually learn boxing. There aren’t that many the other way around, that come from Jiu-Jitsu and then learn boxing and wrestling. And wrestlers seem to peak in their late 20’s early 30’s. Internationally you see guys in their 30’s who are making squads and are at the top of their game.

PRO MMA: Where are you currently training?
Raphael: I train in Costa Mesa (California) with current UFC fighter Justin McCully and his brother, Sean McCully, and the same boxing coach as BJ Penn; Jason Parillo. All those guys are in-house in Costa Mesa at LA Boxing. Then I do my Jiu-Jitsu entirely separate. I train old school full Gi Jiu-Jitsu 3 maybe 4 times a week. I feel like that helps my Jiu-Jitsu get a lot better by training on it alone and separate. Then I take what I learn and adapt it to MMA. I train with Professor Caique Elias (6th degree Black Belt) here in Torrance. He was one of Helio Gracie’s students in Brazil.

PRO MMA: What kind of amateur MMA career did you have? Any grappling tournaments, etc?
Raphael: Absolutely none. California doesn’t allow for amateurs to fight MMA. Its kind of messed up, the way the boxing commission rules are here, if you are an amateur, you can’t spar or fight another amateur. You can fight against a pro, but not another amateur. That’s why you never see any fighters out of California with amateur MMA records. I was pretty naive about the whole ‘to-do’ and kind of just went off of just my wrestling ability. After wrestling internationally, I saw The Ultimate Fighter, guys like Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin just standing there and kind of throwing haymakers at each other the whole time. Now that I look back at it, they had a lot more technique than I thought, even at that time. Like I said, I was kind of naive about it and thought, ahh I’m an athlete, I can do that. That’s where I pretty much started with it all [MMA].

PRO MMA: Well, it seems to have worked so far.
Raphael: (laughs) Well, three or four years later, Ive learned a lot more by just getting my face beat in by boxers, it’s kind of worked out for me. (laughs) That’s one thing I didn’t really get to showcase in this last fight, my stand up. I really wanted to stand there and trade a little bit because I’ve really improved in that department. I knew that at some point the fight was going to end up on the ground.

PRO MMA: Speaking of your last fight, as you know, I was there and we all had the thought that the fight was going to the mat, it was just a matter of when. Your opponent, Jair Goncalves Jr. was 6-2 with 5 submissions, on a 3 fight win streak. His last loss was to Junior Dos Santos by KO. He looked in really good shape and looked really strong.
Raphael: Yeah! He definitely looked a lot stronger than he felt. It was hilarious because all of my friends were like,”Dude is huge! We think of you as kind of a big guy, but that guy is gimongus!” But he [Goncalves] weighed in about six pounds light, at 199. Like I said, he didn’t feel that strong. I was able to clinch him pretty well. the only reason I wasn’t able to get him down sooner was because of the ropes. He kept pushing his butt out just enough that I couldn’t get him down. Looking back at it, I should have swung him to the side and sucked his back in and took him down, I don’t know why I didn’t do that. Either way, as you saw, I walked him from one corner to the other. Then I said, you know what, Im gonna get him in my corner. So I did, with no problem. He just had no answer for me. I felt way stronger than him even though he looked huge. Most of the other countries look like they fight at their walking around weight.

PRO MMA: Did you have to cut weight for that fight?
Raphael: Yeah, I usually walk around at about 220-225. (laughs) I had said in 1999, that when I was done wrestling in college, I was never gonna use plastics again, never have to cut weight. Now we are in 2009 and I’m cutting weight, calling the gym asking if I left my plastics there. (laughs)

PRO MMA: Let’s talk about that last win a little more. The ref stopped the fight at 4:05 of the first round due to ground and pound. Your opponent and his corner man both protested the loss. His corner man going as far as jumping in the ring and getting in the ref’s face. Do you think it was an early stoppage?
Raphael: The only reason I’m going to say no is, I was literally two inches away from the guy’s face. I saw his eyes start to roll back in his head. I mean, I was so stoked when the ref stopped it, I wasn’t even aware that he was fully conscious when I got off of him. It may have been a flash Knockout, for a fleeting second. You see it all the time, a guy gets hit, flash KO, loses his balance and then gets right back up. In this case, I had him in a crucifix. I had one arm pinned between my legs and his other hand pinned to my head. He wasn’t going anywhere or getting out of it. If the ref stopped it then or 30 seconds later, the outcome would have been the same. Did he have a legitimate gripe? Maybe. But being a Jiu-Jitsu guy, he should have never allowed me to put him in that position to begin with, it was his own fault. Being a wrestler you learn, don’t leave it in the hands of the referees. His corner man was just frustrated. It was the swing match for them as a team. They had lost two already and that loss sealed our victory as a team. I wanted the knockout in that fight. Before the fight, I was telling the M1 commentators that I wanted to knock this guy out because I don’t have a real KO on my record. A TKO is good, but a knockout, people see that and are like ‘that is the real deal.’

PRO MMA: Your only loss was due to a decision back in 2006 in the IFL against Brent Beauparlant. Would you say that inexperience cost you that fight?
Raphael: Yeah. I guess you could say that. I took that fight on really short notice. It’s not like you can say no, you have four other guys counting on you and being an athlete you want to fight. But looking back on it now I see what I could or should have done differently. It was only my second pro fight, and not having any amateur experience whatsoever, I didn’t have anything to base it on. It’s like now, there’s not much I haven’t seen. But then, I couldn’t say well this guy is doing this so I can counter by doing this, you know? Instead of just standing there hoping to land one big knockout punch to end the fight, I could have taken him down to catch my wind, etc. But, like I said, it was only my second fight and basically yes, lack of experience cost me the victory.

PRO MMA: In probably what is your most notable win, you fought and submitted Vinicius Magalhaes. Not long after that fight, he was chosen to be on The Ultimate Fighter. Is that kind of frustrating to you, being that you just beat this guy at his own game and he gets on TUF with all that exposure, etc.?
Raphael: I guess frustrated would be the word you could use. Not that I look at it like if I was there I could be a superstar. It’s just how high everyone was on him. I mean, I applied for the show and didn’t get on, no biggie. Then I see that he made it and was like whatever. But then I saw some posts on the internet, people asking, who was the ‘can’ that beat him. It made me laugh. Something like a month before our fight, he and I sparred for an IFL tryout and I beat him pretty good. So when they asked me if I wanted the fight, I was like yeah, but I doubt he does since I beat him up pretty good already. But, he took it thinking he could walk through me. I was telling my guys that I really wanted to submit him. You know, beat him at his own game. To beat a three-time world Jiu-Jitsu champion by submission, that would be something. It happened to work out in my favor. He tried for a knee bar and I pulled out of it easily and got his back. I got the choke. Originally that’s what the victory was, by RNC. But I guess he complained and got it changed to a verbal submission, to save face I guess.

PRO MMA: Fighting in the IFL in the past, and now for the M1 Challenge, how do you like the team format or does it come into play at all?
Raphael: Being a wrestler it’s all Ive ever known. Yes it’s an individual sport, but you want your team to win. It comes into play if your team is losing or if they are winning. It can mess with your psyche a little bit. Especially if you are the swing match and the pressure is on you. Or if your team is losing it can wear on you as well.

PRO MMA: How do you like fighting for M1 Global?
Raphael: I like it. The show production is great. They do a good job showcasing each fighter and not just the teams. It gives guys a chance to get some exposure.

PRO MMA: Aside from yourself of course, who is your favorite MMA fighter?
Raphael: Right now I would have to say GSP. He is so complete as a fighter. Half the time I think I’m rooting against him, but he keeps winning. I mean, his boxing is crisp, his wrestling is good for a guy who has never wrestled, and his Jiu-Jitsu is good enough to keep himself out of submissions and even apply it at times. He is just a complete type of fighter. As far as a guy I can say I would like to be like, it would have to be GSP.

PRO MMA: What’s next for you?
Raphael: I’m fighting in the next M1 Challenge in Japan on April 25th. I think we are fighting team S. Korea. I’ve been told I’m fighting Jae Young Kim, the guy who KO’d his opponent with a high kick. I see this as a really good match for me. He is pretty much a one dimensional fighter with striking ability. His Jiu-Jitsu is basically what I would call anti-Jiu-Jitsu. So I see this as a one-sided fight and a pretty easy victory for me. He has said he likes to use the high kick, but I’m not sure he can even kick that high. I’m like six four and I don’t see him being able to reach my head with his high kick. He’s pretty short for a light heavyweight. He’s a gritty fighter and fights with pretty much all heart. He’s a gamer, but I see it as a one-sided fight in my favor.

PRO MMA: Aside from M1 Global, what are your plans for the future?
Raphael: Whatever comes next. Whoever they throw in front of me. I want bigger harder fights for the future. Like I’ve said before, my window is closing and I need to take my shot now. I’m taking it one step at a time and take it for what it is. I would like to fight for the bigger promotions and hopefully I can get that chance.

PRO MMA: Anything else you would like to add? Sponsors, shout outs, plugs, etc?
Raphael: I would like to thank Punishment Athletics, of course LA Boxing and Serious Pimp. You know, I do this really just for the love of the sport, to compete as an athlete. I fight just to fight because I still have the craving to be an athlete and I love it.

PRO MMA: Raphael, thanks again for taking the time out to talk to me and I hope to see you in the near future.
Raphael: Your welcome. Anytime. Thanks for your support

By: Jeff Howard

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