Bellator champ Davis excited for future of light heavyweight division

Phil Davis' bout against Ryan Bader won't take place at the upcoming Bellator: NYC, but Davis says he's ready to take on anyone in the division. Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

When Bellator MMA signed perennially ranked light heavyweight Ryan Bader in March, it seemed like a no-brainer he would face the promotion's defending champion, Phil Davis.

Bader (22-5) is an elite member of the 205-pound weight class, and he defeated Davis (17-3) via split decision when they fought in January 2015 under the UFC banner.

When Bellator announced it was planning a pay-per-view event June 24 inside Madison Square Garden, it looked like a match made in heaven. Bader and Davis even exchanged words on Twitter, each agreeing to the potential rematch.

But then late last month, Bellator opted to book a non-title fight between Bader and Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (21-6), who defeated Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at Bellator 175.

Speaking to ESPN.com this week, Davis, 32, said he's healthy and was willing to fight Bader this summer, but that he's content sitting out the New York event. Above all, he said he trusts president Scott Coker's vision.

"That's above my pay grade, brother," said Davis, when asked why the fight didn't come together. "It kind of really is, whatever Scott Coker feels is best for the organization, I'm down with. He's trying to build this division, and I'm behind the man.

"He does what he does. I just beat people up."

Davis, who recently flew to Sweden to help UFC light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson prepare for an upcoming fight on May 28, said he truly thought the Bader rematch was going to happen on the New York card, but when it didn't, he didn't ask questions. Davis hasn't fought since he won the title by defeating Liam McGeary in November, and he guessed he'll defend it around August or September.

"I like the prospect of Bader fighting King Mo," said Davis, who has a prior win over Lawal from 2016. "And I'm not so sure Ryan Bader wins that fight.

"I would absolutely love to avenge the loss to Bader, and I would have love, love, loved to do it in New York. But when it comes to going against Scott Coker? At the end of the day, my idea is second to his. I would love to beat someone up in Madison Square Garden, and I'm very patient. I can wait my turn. There will be another opportunity at Madison Square Garden. I'm glad they finally made the sport legal there. That's what is most exciting to me."

Davis does plan on attending Bellator: NYC, and regardless of who wins that light heavyweight matchup between Bader and Lawal, he said he has options at the top of the division.

And he's more than happy to let Coker figure out the order in which they should come.

"If you look at the landscape of the division, I've got rematches with Ryan Bader, King Mo and Liam McGeary," Davis said. "I'll go back at Liam McGeary every day of the week if you set that up. I'll fight Mo. And I'm saving something special for Ryan Bader's butt. However they come, I'm ready."