Undefeated light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary finally returns after a 14-month lay-off due to injury at Bellator 163 this weekend, when he'll put his title on the line against top contender Phil Davis in Uncasville, Connecticut. FO caught up with the champion ahead of his second defense and discovered a man determined to make up for lost time.
Q. How does it feel to finally be back defending your belt on Friday at Bellator 163?
A. Finally. Thatâ€™s the only word I can use. Finally I will get back in the f**king cage! I cannot wait! We've done a few face-offs. He won the tournament. I've been injured and now Iâ€™m ready to go.
Q. During your time on the sidelines injured, how much were you chomping at the bit to get in there and punch someone in the face?
A. Man, the whole time. The down time was tough. Being out so long was a little depressing. I was able to get out and travel a little bit. I went to a couple of different countries and I go out and saw a few bits and pieces. But itâ€™s time to get back to work now. I need to earn some money, too!
Q. Did you have some sponsors and people that stood by you during the layoff?
A. I've got a couple of good sponsors like Gamma Labs, Future Legend and Renzo Gracie Bronx. They've all had my back and helped me out massively this year.
Q. What fight has been the fight of your life to this point?
A. The last fight. Every time itâ€™s the last fight. I beat Emmanuel Newton for the title. Then I got Tito Ortiz, a legend in the sport. Now Iâ€™m fighting a top five ranked guy in Phil Davis. He's a former UFC guy. He's the number one dude to be fighting.
Q. Once that cage door closes on Friday, how does the fight play out?
A. Violently. Very violently. I havenâ€™t had a fight for a year. The last time I had a big gap it was a six-month break and that one ended in 27 seconds. I hope he lasts longer than 27 seconds, but I am going to go in there and punch him in the face â€“ hard!
Q. You've had a long time to sit back and review your first defense against Tito. So what were your biggest takeaways from that performance?
A. It made me open my eyes to the wrestling aspect more. I always knew that wrestling was a small problem and having this layoff helped me fix that little problem. I am always playing catch up with these guys. He's been doing this since he was five years old. I've been doing it for a couple of years. Iâ€™m not going to say I'll be the best wrestler out there, but I am understanding the game. I understand it a lot more than I did even two years ago. To beat Tito by submission in the first roundâ€¦ I used to sit there with my mates when I was younger and we would be watching Tito and they would ask what I thought and I would say â€˜I would knock him out.â€™ Well, now I can say I submitted him. It was good to fight Tito. It was good to put my name up there. He is a big dude!
Q. You're 11-0 with five vicious KOâ€™s and five submissions. Is it always about the finish?
A. Yeah, I still donâ€™t understand â€˜winning the roundâ€™ bullshit. I have to fight for the finish. I donâ€™t like going to the judges. Fighting for the title was the first time I went to the judges. I didnâ€™t really understand what was going on then, when they were reading out all the numbers. I just wanted to finish him.
Q. What was it like when that Bellator 205lb title was first wrapped around your waist?
A. It was a very surreal moment. It wasnâ€™t the whole jumping all around, being all excited moment. It was a strange, strange feeling. I was happier when I beat Tito than when I won the title. I was happy I won the title but it really didnâ€™t sink in until quite a while afterwards. I donâ€™t think about the belt. I think about the fight at hand. I think that this guy is trying to hurt me. I donâ€™t think he's trying to take my belt. I want to hurt him before he hurts me.
Q. Now MMA is legal in New York how excited are you, as a resident of the state, that you'll have the opportunity to compete there?
A. Iâ€™m excited to be able to give fight fans in New York the shows they've been missing out on! The east coast is full of promising tough fighters who all work hard and are great athletes. Only right that we all get to put fights on in NYC. Everybody has been pushing hard for MMA to get legalized here and now itâ€™s finally that time. We're all eager to get in the big places like Madison Square Garden, Barclayâ€™s Center and other great venues here, to follow in the footsteps of those fighters before us. It was the boxing legends time first and now itâ€™s time for the MMA legends to show what we got too.
Q. Now Bellator has branched out in to kickboxing is there a chance we may see you step into the ring?
A. Yeah I donâ€™t see why not. I would like to give it a go. I would like to give boxing a go, too. My problem in when Iâ€™m in a boxing match all I want to do is kick them and when Iâ€™m in a kickboxing match all I want to do is take them down and submit them. I get confused sometimes. But first thing is first, I am going to kick Phil Davisâ€™ ass and we'll go from there.