It doesn’t take long to realize that Brian Davidson is serious about Mixed Martial Arts. Talk to him about the sport and his infectious passion quickly illustrates how MMA drives his life — from the gyms he owns, to the MMA teams he coaches, to his advocacy for the sport. For Brian, owner of Grind House MMA outside of Kansas City, Missouri, success in 2012 will be measured by one thing: gaining a spot to fight in the UFC.
“I am so ready for a UFC fight,” Davidson says. “I hope I get a chance this year; I think I’ve proven that I’m not a one-dimensional fighter,” referring to his energized fights and unique style that has resulted in a 5-fight winning streak this year. Combining skills he established in Taekwondo (which he began at the age of ten) with Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga and Wrestling, Davidson has carved his own place in the ring.
Brian caught the attention of many in the MMA community with his submission of former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver at the Titan Fighting Championship in 2011. As the underdog, his rear-naked choke and ability to take command of Pulver with punches and on the ground maneuvers gave Davidson not only an early round one win, but new-found confidence and a desire for more. His continued winning streak has proven to be powerful motivation for someone who wasn’t actively competing.
“The fight with Jens Pulver pulled me out of retirement, that’s for sure,” says Davidson. “He’s a legend, and I just couldn’t refuse an opportunity like that.” After his win, Davidson didn’t look back, and was once again a competitor with his eyes on a new goal.
Before the pivotal fight with Jens Pulver changed the direction of Davidson’s life, he spent his days teaching at his two gyms, Grindhouse MMA and Kids 2 Leaders Gym, where you can still find him offering what he terms “family style” martial arts instruction. “I fight in the MMA ring these days, but my roots in Taekwondo are still a big part of my life,” he says. His resume includes a long list of accomplishments as a 7th Degree Black Belt and 4-time Taekwondo World Champion. He also spent four years training in Krav Maga with Gracie Baha in Orlando, FL., and you can see that influence in the programs he offers at his school.
Kids 2 Leaders offers students classes in Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Weapons, Judo, Sparring, Board Breaking, Israeli self-defense and MMA. “We value the core principles of the traditional martial arts by teaching respect, confidence, self discipline and self esteem. But we also combine skills from these different disciplines and show students how to put them together to be a well rounded athlete.”
Davidson says fighters get in trouble when they learn skills individually without figuring out how to incorporate them into a seamless style. “If a fighter doesn’t have a strategy and isn’t trained to use all the skills together, he’ll revert to the techniques of his core discipline (like Karate or Boxing) and not be ready for every scenario a fight might present,” he says.
“Wrestlers used to beat me – I called them my kryptonite. I had to learn those skills to win and now I have the confidence to fight any type of fighter because I’ve done the work … to know what’s coming,” Davidson says.
When asked about the future of the sport, Davidson says MMA is here to stay. “MMA is going to continue to grow. It’s the ultimate sport for physicality…a fighter does hours of cardio and strength training. They’re more agile, balanced and tough. No other combat sport is as complete as MMA…that’s why everyone loves it.”
Because of this, Davidson believes MMA will continue to gain a bigger presence on network television and become accepted in mainstream sports programs. “Parents are comfortable with traditional martial arts programs that are structured and focused on a certain set of goals. These programs are a great way to get students started. They become feeder programs for other disciplines of traditional martial arts and MMA and it’s a natural progression of skills and training,” says Davidson. “The next major push will be for collegiate MMA teams because there is already collegiate Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, and Taekwondo. Once that happens, it will only be a matter of time before MMA is in the Olympics.”
It’s an exciting time for Brian Davidson, as both a gym owner and competitor. “I love this sport and the competition … how it changed the way I train, how I teach, and what my personal style is,” he says. “I am excited about how this platform allows me to share the positive aspects of the sport with students and spectators, and to be an advocate for the many things to come for MMA.”