The Rising Tide: Alexis Davis Is Fighting Her Way to the Top of Women's MMA
The spotlight is locked on women's MMA more so than any other time in history. With Invicta FC putting on successful all-female events and Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche set to make UFC history in Anaheim, the moment has come for the top women fighters in the world to show and prove.
The buzz is steadily rising in the wake of UFC 157 as "The Ronda Rousey Show" prepares to take center stage. It will undoubtedly be a pivotal moment in the chapters of WMMA. If the showing is a successful one, the doors of the Octagon will open for a collection of the world's top female fighters to compete.
That being said, there is plenty that could go wrong in the equation, and Alexis Davis isn't caught up in the possibilities of what may or may not happen in the future.
The 28-year-old Canadian is firmly focused on her personal rise and is determined to climb to the top of the mountain. "Ally-Gator" has found victory in five of her last six showings with her most recent win coming over Shayna Baszler at Invicta 4 back in January. It was a rematch three years in the making, and Davis evened the score via rear-naked choke in the third round, leaving Baszler sleeping on the canvas in the process.
"I think I made a huge statement in that [Shayna] Baszler fight," Davis told Bleacher Report. "It may not have been big media wise because a lot of MMA media doesn't really cover WMMA all that much and might know know who Shayna is. But she is one of the toughest female fighters and one of the truly legit female fighters in the sport.
"She is very well-rounded and has a great submission game much like myself. For me, beating Shayna was taking the next big step and she was one of the toughest fights I've had. A victory over a fighter I consider to be one of the toughest women out there is a great feeling.
In the ranks of WMMA, Davis's stock has never been higher. The Team Cesar Gracie-fighter has steadily built a reputation for her gritty style and willingness to trade leather at every turn. On the strength of her runs in Strikeforce and Invicta, Davis is now in a position to be considered one of the world's best.
She's looking to fight her way to the top, and whatever promotion that journey carries out in doesn't really matter to her. The only thing Davis wants is to fight the best the world has to offer.
"I would love to fight for the UFC," Davis said. "I'm completely happy fighting for Invicta but I know UFC is the next huge platform depending on how everything works out with this fight at UFC 157. For me it all comes down to how I perform in my fights. When this news was going on about women coming to the UFC I chose to focus my attention on my fight with Baszler. Whether or not my next fight in the UFC isn't something I can focus on. I have ample opponents in front of me and that is where my focus needs to be.
"No matter where or who I'm fighting, it is always going to be a good fight. I don't think to this day I've ever had a boring fight. This is what I do for a living. This is what I love to do. I'm coming out there to win and it doesn't matter who it is I'm facing. It doesn't matter if I fight for the UFC or Invicta next, I'm going to be a better fighter than the last time you saw me."
For Davis and many other women competing in mixed martial arts, times have never been better. With all major promotions beginning to showcase the top female talent on their rosters, the landscape of WMMA has shifted entirely.
Where options were once limited, the sudden growth of WMMA has attracted scores of new talent to the biggest stages and allowed female fighters to progress in the proper fashion. This was a luxury Davis wasn't afforded, and she's excited for the next generation of female fighters to make their mark.
"I think we are under the spotlight more than ever," Davis said. "Especially with how much attention a lot of these promotions are giving women. With the UFC fight coming up soon and Invicta doing so well, it is an exciting time for women in the sport. Even promotions like Bellator are putting women on center stage and it's great exposure.
"You get a lot more young females interested in the sport and realizing it is not just people getting in a cage like barbarians. People thought that way before but there are legit skills behind these ladies. There are women who bring Olympic-style wrestling or world class Judo now. There are great jiu-jitsu practitioners competing and there are a lot of skills to back up these ladies. Even with the guys, no one is just coming in there looking for blood. This is a sport and people are starting to see that.
"It's crazy and I almost wish I could have started my career at the point the sport is right now," Davis added. "I turned pro right away in my first fight against Sarah Kaufman, but now you have the ability and grow with your record. We have shows like Invicta where people who are just coming off amateur fights can face similar competition all the way up to women who have been competing for seven or eight years like myself. That provides a wide range and promotions like Invicta are really helping in that sense. Now other promotions are seeing that too and women aren't easily looked past anymore. We've come to the point in time where a high percentage of fight cards are going to have women bouts."
Since the days of Gina Carano, the topic of women flaunting their sex appeal has been a hot button issue in WMMA. It has become a debate of style versus substance, and while fighters like "Conviction" and Rousey have validated their salesmanship by performances inside the cage, others have fallen short in their efforts.
This divide has created a dialogue in the mixed martial arts community, and with the sport being entertainment based, it is unlikely the stigma will fade anytime soon. Davis takes zero issues with her fellow competitors boosting their profiles and believes everything will ultimately be determined when the cage door closes.
"You are going to come across different types of people in this world," Davis said. "The more publicity fights and the fighters in them get, you are going to come across people who are going to sell their image in different ways. When it comes down to it, what is going to keep the fans is what happens in the cage.
"I hate to say it but I don't think it will ever go away. I think the bigger this gets the more you are going to have that element. I'm all for people who want to show themselves in a certain light, just be able to back it up and have a little bit of class. Maybe try being a bit more Playboy than Hustler."
While the road ahead holds uncertainty for Davis opponent-wise, the future is undoubtedly bright. In the aftermath of UFC 157, the sport's biggest promotion will decide how much it is willing to grow the bantamweight division. If things go smoothly, Davis will find her name added to that roster.
That being said, should things go in a different direction, one fighter who has been on Davis' radar for some time is former Strikeforce champion Cris Cyborg.
The Brazilian wrecking machine has been out of action since testing positive for a banned substance following her bout against Hiroko Yamanaka in December of 2011. The failed drug test spawned a rash of negative publicity for Cyborg, and her talks with the UFC have been rocky at best. Should both women find the door to the Octagon closed for the time being, Davis would like to mix it up with one of the most feared female fighters on the planet.
"I totally respect Cris," Davis said. "I think she is a great fighter and I hope she does well. I'm not sure what is going on right now and if she can drop down to 135 pounds to make the UFC or not, but that is definitely a fight I'd be interested in. She has gone through the negative publicity with the whole steroids thing but I think she is still a great fighter. I think there are a lot of people who have probably looked past her because they think she was only successful because she was all juiced up or whatever. I've seen her jiu-jitsu and her Muay Thai and she is a legit top fighter."
Over the next few weeks the next step of Davis's journey will materialize, and she will be ready when it does. The Ontario native has set her sights on making 2013 a year to remember and is determined to keep the process of progress in constant motion.
"I want to go to Brazil," Davis said regarding her plans for the year ahead. "I can't really say when but it is definitely on my list. I am going to get a title this year and I want to successfully defend that title before the year is done. I don't think you are a legit champion until you can at least defend your title. I'm also going to win a couple jiu-jitsu titles in there too—some Worlds and Pan Ams. It is going to be a full year but I have to keep myself busy."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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