On October 24, 2013, Ryan Cobbins left his home and headed toward the barbershop he'd been going to for well over two years, on 39th Street and Prospect Avenue in Kansas City. He had an 11 a.m. appointment scheduled at the shop. It was a regular thing for Cobbins; he got his hair braided there at least once or twice a month.
On this day, though, something went wrong. Cobbins disappeared, somehow vanishing into broad daylight. His Camaro was discovered days later in an apartment complex parking lot, but Cobbins was nowhere to be found.
On November 4, Kansas City police officially began looking into Cobbins as a missing persons case. They implored locals to call the KCPD Missing Persons hotline if they knew any information that could lead them to Cobbins.
Cobbins and his brother, the Bellator bantamweight L.C. Davis, grew up together. They did not have the most stable of childhoods, living in "pretty much every suburb" Kansas City had to offer. Their single mother moved them around constantly in her search for work. They eventually moved to live with their grandmother. When Davis was in high school, he left his little brother and his mom behind, moving in with his dad, feeling that his father could offer a more stable living environment. But he still came back on holidays and each summer. Even when Davis moved to Iowa, they stayed in touch, and Cobbins would visit when he could.
Everyone was confused when Cobbins disappeared, but they held out hope that he would return home or show up somewhere. Anywhere.
"I went about two months just hoping and praying that he would pop up alive somewhere," Davis said. "It was terrible. Every day, you just wake up and pray that you're going to find out good news."
But the news was not good.
On January 1, 2014, a Kansas City codes inspector was checking on a series of abandoned houses. He found Cobbin's body in one of the homes. He'd been tied up, with his wrists and ankles tied together, and he had been executed.
The case is still unsolved. Kansas City police have investigated Cobbins' death as a homicide from the beginning, and Davis said it is now a federal investigation with three or four states involved.
From the beginning, Davis took an active part in trying to find out what happened to his brother. None of it made sense, but Davis tried to piece it together as best he could. He made phone calls. He cased out every building and location he possibly could. He went to the last place his brother was seen. He went to the place his body was found. He talked to all of Cobbins' friends. He gave the investigating detectives every single name and number he could think of, of anyone who might be remotely tied to the disappearance.
He had a million scenarios running through his head about why, how, when. But he also felt he wasn't getting the whole truth from the people he spoke to.
"One thing I do know: I know that some of his friends and the people he was acquainted with know more than what they are saying," Davis said. "I know several of his so-called friends, I feel like they know more than they are saying. That's really the only suspicion I have."
Despite the total upheaval in his personal life, and despite the uncertainty, Davis continued to train. Shortly after his brother's disappearance, but before they found his body, Davis had a title fight on December 14, 2013, for Victory Fighting Championship against Ryan Roberts. Clearly distracted and weighed down, Davis dropped a split decision. But he stayed in the gym, using it as an outlet to vent his anger.
In hindsight, Davis said, that was not the best idea. But he didn't have any training partners willing to pull him aside and tell him that he needed to take some time off to deal with his emotions.
"I didn't have that. In a way, I wish I would have. Or maybe that I'd taken a little break. I lost that fight, and it was the first fight I'd lost in several years," Davis said. "I probably should not have taken that fight. And the other part of me is that I'm a fighter. I keep moving forward. I don't like to feel sorry for myself. I feel like everyone has a story. Everyone has something bad happen to them. So I don't have a pity party for myself. I just try to keep moving forward and keep doing the right things."
Losing his brother was tough, but he had his wife and kids and extended family to fall back on. Mostly, Davis said, he felt bad for the two young daughters Cobbins left behind.
"And my mother is in prison, and she didn't even get to come to his funeral," Davis said. "Things like that made me hurt more than feeling sorry for myself."
Davis continued investigating his brother's disappearance, and he calls the police investigators once a week, every week, to inquire if there are any new leads or developments in the case.
But he also continues to fight. He rebounded from the loss to Roberts by signing with Bellator and then reeling off wins over two consecutive opponents. This Friday, he faces Hideo Tokoro at Bellator 135 in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
Davis said that another win will put him one step closer to a title fight, but he knows a win alone may not be enough.
"I would like to jump the line by going out there and doing something spectacular," Davis said.
And so he goes to the gym every day, pushing forward. He continues to pay close attention to the investigation into his brother's death. He is hopeful that one of the days, they will find out what, exactly, happened to his brother that October day, and they'll find out why it happened. But until then, he presses forward, doing the only thing he knows how, because that's how he honors the memory of Ryan Cobbins.
"That's what he would want me to do. He wouldn't want me to sit around and be sad and give up on my fighting career and have a meltdown," Davis said. "So all I can do is move forward. I think by grinding and moving forward, that's how I cope with it."
Jeremy Botter covers mixed martial arts for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.
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