Jeremy Davis has battled brawlers, smashed stand-up specialists and grappled with guys who just wanted to ground and pound.
They were nothing compared with the opponent his mom has had to face.
Melissa Davis-Pfeiffer has gone toe to toe with cancer.
Four rounds now, including her most recent battle with soft tissue carcinoma that had to be surgically removed from her leg.
She’ll tell you with a slight wince in her voice that there are no winners in these battles. Just survivors, God willing.
As Davis gets ready to face Alberto Montes in the main event at V3Fights 64 at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida on Nov. 11 – his debut with V3 – the featherweight continues to draw strength from the courageous way his mom has fought her fight.
“That’s my hero right there,” he said. “She tells me not to be sad for her because she’s not sad. So, I can’t really say it’s the saddest thing I’ve seen. It’s probably the most exciting thing to see a woman fight and continue to fight. And that’s pretty much my drive every day.”
She’s not only his inspiration, but his biggest fan. She’s always encouraged his athletic endeavors, whether it was baseball or football or some other sport. One day when he came home and announced he was taking up MMA, she told him he was “too pretty” for the sport. The nickname “Pretty Boy” was born, and so was his passion to fight.
Fighting for Team SHIFT MMA in Tampa, Fla., Davis got off to a 3-0 start to his pro career. When he lost to Peter Barrett (second-round TKO, liver kick) in November 2016, however, it seemed as if his career was at a crossroad.
Davis set out to train even harder and hone his craft. He wanted to put more pressure on his opponents and improved his kickboxing. He said the things he learned at Tampa Muay Thai have made a “humongous” difference, and it showed when he defeated Anthony Tisdale via submission at 3:02 of Round 1 in April at Battleground MMA.
Through the ups and downs, Mom is constantly encouraging him. She sends him inspirational speeches she finds on the Internet. She tells him at their tradition pre-fight meal at Cracker Barrel how proud she and Davis’ late father, James, are of all he’s accomplished.
Even when the cancer returned this year, she made sure he was still focused on training.
“I typically will go into fight mode with him,” Davis-Pfeiffer said. “So, I’m constantly every day telling him, ‘You need to be at the gym. You need to be doing this. You need to be doing that.’ If he misses a day, I’m on it. I’m like, ‘What are you doing, man?’ He’s like, ‘I just need a break.’ I’m like, ‘No, do something.’”
Cancer has proven harder to knock out. Davis-Pfeiffer developed thyroid cancer when her son was just 3. It’s hard to say what was more agonizing: the surgery to remove her thyroid or not being able to hold her son for 10 days while she recovered.
In recent years, cancer returned with a vengeance. She had her ovaries removed. Then she had surgery on her arm. And most recently, cancer spread to her leg. Although she’s going through some therapy – some muscle had to be removed where the cancer had become attached – she’s on the road to recovery.
Doctors can’t guarantee that the cancer won’t come back in another area, so she finds solace in her son’s fights.
“It is an inspiration for me because it makes my mind not think about what I’m going through,” Davis-Pfeiffer said. “The day of the fight, night of the fight, I talk to his sponsors, I greet all of his fans. When he gets ready to fight, I stay focused and no matter where I’m at in the convention center or wherever the fight is at, most of his fans and sponsors will surround me and we’ll all cheer together. It’s a very joyous occasion to watch all his fans and family. People I don’t even know come up to me and tell me what a great person he is.”
A great person – even in the face of a hurricane.
When Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida with Category 4 winds in September and began to bear down on the Tampa area, Davis jumped at the chance to help. He and a friend filled 40 or so bags with sand and crammed some of them into his Impala. With widespread flooding imminent, he sought out people in need – many of whom were single moms with nowhere to go.
“I just went on a run,” he said. “I live in Tampa. I went all the way up to Tarpon Springs, which is a 45-minute ride. Left some bags there. And then I pretty much stayed in the Tampa area when people started to panic when the storm started to shift straight to us. I just wanted to give a helping hand. I have so many fans in the Tampa area. They spend 50 bucks to 1,000 bucks to come see me fight. I figure I have to give back to them.”