By: Sean Crose
“Follow the game plan,” Dyah Davis says to me. The guy is right to say it. For, as the boxing coach of UFC star Dustin Poirier, Davis can savor the fact Poirier just stopped Conor McGregor, the very face of the UFC, with his fists. In a sport like mixed martial arts, where a fighter has a variety of ways to best his opponent, Poirier ultimately took McGregor out with punching that was honed under the tutelage of Davis. Not that Davis is gloating. To the contrary, the trainer gives credit to Poirier himself, as well as others on Poirier’s team.
“The calf kicks are what set it up,” he says modestly.
Still, Davis would have preferred the fight having been scored a knockout rather than a stoppage. Sure enough, McGregor looks like the lights have been turned off in slow motion footage of the bout’s final moments. Davis, though, isn’t one to harp on such things. “We’ll take the TKO win,” he claims. When we speak, the former professional boxer – and son of the late, legendary 1976 Gold Medalist Howard Davis – has just started to recover from the jetlag that comes with traveling to the United States from Abu Dhabi.
“The first couple of days were brutal,” Davis says of having to acclimate to different parts of the globe. “Immediately, I wanted to see my family.” Travelling to the UFC’s famous “Fight Island” is serious business. “It’s been rough, man,” Davis tells me from back at his gym in Boca Raton, Florida. “It’s been rough.” Rough, but clearly well worth it, as Davis helped orchestrate one of the biggest combat sports’ upsets in recent memory. “No, I’m not,” he says when asked if he’s taken back by the power of Poirier performance. “I know where Dustin is now.”
Sure enough, the first time Poirier faced McGregor, he was knocked out by the boisterous Irishman in the first round. Since that 2014 defeat, however, Davis claims a lot has changed. “Two different guys,” he says of Poirier. “He used to let everything bother him. He didn’t take to psychological warfare.” McGregor, of course, excelled at such things, so Poirier had to make his mind as strong as his body after that initial defeat.
At the moment, Davis will now focus on his gym and on the other hard punching UFC star he works with – Amanda Nunes. I bring up the fact that Nunes’ punching reminds me of Sonny Liston’s, an assertion Davis agrees with. “She also hits harder than most men,” he tells me in all seriousness. One might wonder how a former professional boxer (Davis’ ring record was 25-4-1) can gel so well with mixed martial artists, but as someone whose job it is to strengthen the boxing skills of these athletes, Davis indicates it isn’t all that complicated.
“It’s really not much of a difference,” he says of training Poirier instead of a pure boxer, “to make sure he has a correct stance and foot positioning…I want to capitalize on his strength.” After seeing Poirier’s performance against McGregor last weekend, it seems Davis has done just that.