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South Hadley’s Leon ‘Dynamite’ Davis answering MMA’s call at CES 45

  • Leon Davis, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, warms up by jumping rope before practice at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, left, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, talks with Justin Torrey before practice at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, left, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, practices wrestling techniques with Tom Matera, of Ludlow, at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. Matera is a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, right, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, practices wrestling techniques with Tom Matera, of Ludlow, at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday, as his coach, Jeremy Libiszewski watches. Matera is a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, top, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, practices wrestling techniques with Tom Matera, of Ludlow, at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. Matera is a former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, top, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, practices wrestling techniques with Tom Matera, of Ludlow, at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. Matera is a former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, right, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, practices wrestling techniques with Tom Matera, of Ludlow, at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. Matera is a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, top, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, practices wrestling techniques with Tom Matera, of Ludlow, at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. Matera is a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leon Davis, right, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from South Hadley, talks with WWE wrestler Tom Metera, of Ludlow, before practice at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield, Tuesday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Thursday, August 10, 2017

SPRINGFIELD — Leon Davis poured a drink at Maximum Capacity and listened.

The former South Hadley wrestler was tending bar at Maxiumum Capacity in 2008 as the venue hosted amateur mixed martial arts bouts. One of the fighters on the card withdrew, and the promoters needed a replacement two hours before the fight started.

Davis had just wrapped up an All-American wrestling career at Springfield Technical Community College with an eighth-place finish at nationals two weeks earlier. He’d been eating pizza and working, not staying in fight shape.

“The owner’s friend knew that I wrestled and said ‘hey, I’m in a jam, I need someone to step up and fight this kid,’” Davis said. “I was like ‘whatever, I’ll do it.’”

The lack of preparation didn’t stop him. Davis warmed up for five minutes after changing in the storage area then took his opponent down and tapped him out in the first round.

“I had no clue what I was doing,” Davis said.

But the ability to continue participating in sports intrigued him. He decided to pursue mixed martial arts.

After that first fight, Davis started training at Fighting Arts Academy in Springfield with Abi Mestre.

“He didn’t know anything about fighting at all. He came out of a pretty extensive wrestling background,” FAA owner and chief instructor Jeremy Libiszewski said. “He started to learn all the different disciplines.”

Davis worked three jobs when he was fighting as an amateur. The former high school Western Massachusetts Division 3 champion would cook at the Chicopee Ninety Nine, work security at the Hu Ke Lau and bartend at Maximum Capacity. From Thursday through Saturday, he’d work from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Davis slept in the Ninety Nine parking lot on those days.

“I would go from Maximum Capacity to Chicopee at 3 a.m., park and pass out,” Davis said. “My boss would knock on the window like, ‘hey Leon what’s up, you want to come clock in early?’”

That schedule made finding fights difficult. Libiszewski told Davis he needed to become a professional if he was serious about fighting. Davis went for it in 2009.

“At first, honestly, it was just a hobby,” Davis said. “I just kept on training and it turned into a career.”

In addition to fighting, Davis works as a paraprofessional and wrestling coach at Dean Tech and hopes to soon be a corrections officer in Connecticut.

His professional record stands at 10-3. “Dynamite” Davis will face Andrew Osborne in a 155-pound preliminary bout at CES MMA 45 on Friday. The fights start at 7 p.m. at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

“He’s tough. He’s fought the who’s who of everyone in New England,” Davis said. “He’s fought a bunch of UFC veterans.”

Tapology.com ranks Osborne as the No. 36 lightweight (RANGE) in New England. Davis is No. 7. Osborne has a 7-10-1 record.

“(Osborne is) a little bit reckless striker. He’s trying to land shots to win. Not the most technical, but he doesn’t mind getting knocked out if he’s trying to knock you out,” said Libiszewski, who serves as Davis’ head coach. “(Osborne) could lose to a guy who’s OK, and he could beat a guy that’s phenomenal.”

In order to manage that power and style, Davis will attempt to control the space between the fighters.

“Know where he is at all times,” Libiszewski said. “Dictate the gap. The angles are the most important. Angles are how you control the gap.”

Davis will lean on his wrestling background in the fight, but he’s not concerned with forcing anything on the fight. He’ll strike if the fight stays up and wrestle if it goes to the ground.

“You don’t want to rush anything,” Davis said. “The minute you rush something that’s when you get caught.”

He’s confident in his abilities and his preparation.

“I know I’m going to win because the best me is coming out,” Davis said.

The most stressful part about preparation has been cutting the weight. Davis walks around carrying 180 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame. He and Osborne are fighting at 155.

“Most fighters have two fights. It’s the fight to make the weight,” Libiszewski said. “It’s the fight before the fight.”

Davis consults with a nutritionist and follows a specific diet of high protein, minimal carbs and a lot of vegetables and shakes. He’ll either steam the vegetables or blend them in the shake.

Learning the different fighting disciplines means training in different places. He’ll box in Providence, practice jiu jitsu in Springfield, wrestle in Easthampton among other training locations. It’s his goal to be the first person from Western Mass. to reach the UFC and win.

That isn’t out of the question, especially if he wins Friday.

“He’s flirting with the UFC right now. If he wins this fight, I believe he’ll be in a pretty big show after this to jockey for the UFC,” Libiszewski said. “He definitely has the ability. I’ve seen him spar against people who are in the UFC, and he mauls them. The skill level is there. What we say about every fighter is what will show up on fight night?”

Libiszewski said Davis would already be in the UFC had he not lost two key fights.

“In all the fights he lost, he was winning, and he somehow kind of messed up,” Libiszewski said. “That’s the problem with mixed martial arts. One little, minor mistake, that’s the end of everything.”

With those goals in sight, Davis remains focused and confident.

“I train with a bunch of UFC guys. They say you should be in the UFC right now,” Davis said. “Once you get the call, you’re ready.”