You can stack the deck against him. Get him on short notice, without proper training, at a higher weight class or some combination of the three. Break his jaw. However it goes down, Chris David scraps until the final bell, and chances are, there isn’t anything you can throw at him that he hasn’t already seen. When you’ve lived in a gym for a year, spent months couch surfing and taken virtually every fight you’ve been offered, a dose of stability can work wonders for your career.
David, a.k.a. “Dark Lotus,” defeated David Granados for the Pure Combat bantamweight belt on Nov. 1 in his hometown of Sacramento, Calif. His 11-7-2 record is notable; despite lacking a full-time training regimen and competing above his natural weight of 135 pounds, he has never been stopped or submitted.
When he turned pro in 2003, he was “fiending for MMA” and started fighting to provide balance between mind and body. A Sacramento State graduate -- he earned a degree in philosophy -- David, 27, still searches for the next challenge before he retires, and, as he puts it, pursues a career “as a professor with a long white beard.”
Now that he can train and make a living teaching, David figures his best years are ahead of him. He goes all-in with whatever he does, whether it’s fighting or debating the observations of Nietzsche and Kant. David’s battle with Granados was no different.
“The way I look at this guy, he’s like most MMA fighters nowadays,” David said beforehand. “They aren’t specialists; they do everything. But I do the same, and I don’t think there’s one aspect of the game he has more than me. I’m a full-time fighter, and this is what I do. If he wins, he’s the better man.”
‘A really smart dude’
Roommate Nelson Ocampo also fought on the card and credits David with keeping him in the sport.
“It’s awesome living with him,” Ocampo said. “The more I know this guy, the more he blows my mind. He’s a really smart dude. I’m glad [I was able] to finally return a favor when I found out he had nowhere to live. [If] it wasn’t for Chris, I wouldn’t be fighting.”
David teaches grappling at Universal Training Center, a local gym owned by James Irvin. He got the job the hard way -- by showing up and rolling with the head instructor, a brown belt who outweighed him by 30 pounds. The two grappled to exhaustion, neither able to secure a submission. Before that, he’d helped fellow fighter Cody Canterbury start another gym in a warehouse, and Canterbury referred him to Irvin.
“He’s got pretty much one of the biggest classes there,” Canterbury said. “Fighting, it’s like life, that’s all he does. He loves it. He lives for it all the time. He’s ready to rock and roll and fight anybody anytime. He doesn’t treat you any different. I tell people that when I recommend him. He has a hard class. He treats me the same, and he’ll get right in my face.”
Recent fights have allowed David more preparation than earlier in his career, when gyms were hard to find. The approach came with a high price because he took fights on short notice or above his natural weight. Consider the bout he accepted against 155-pounder Jessie Romero on a week’s notice in 2006.
“It was a title fight at 155 for $1,000,” David said. “Twenty days before, I fought Ian McCall at 135, so I was like 143. I weigh in with rolls of quarters in my jeans. His stand-up was better than mine. I kept banging on him on the ground, but they kept standing us up. He only won the last 30 seconds of the round off stand-up. I was outta shape, and this fool kicks me in the head. I was tired, my jaw was open [and] he hits me as hard as he could. My hands dropped, and [he] kicked me again in the jaw, and I fell right into it.”
David filed a claim through the promoter’s insurance immediately after the fight and had his jaw wired shut.
“We hooked up with a straw and some red wine,” said Jeff Jones, another running mate and training partner. “He sipped it down through the gap where his front tooth is missing. He didn’t complain and seemed pretty happy about it.”
“Four months into it, I’m dying, eating soup and protein shakes for the last month,” David says. “Some buddies were having pizza and donuts, and I’m like, ‘I’m eating this.’ I ate two pieces of pizza, smashed into little bits, gumming it with my tongue through my mouth. It was the best meal ever.”
In July 2007, David fought Scott Jorgenson on Showtime, dropping a clear-cut but hard-fought decision. Even with his debut on the big stage, the pre-fight drama carried his trademark dose of chaos.
Driving with three fight buddies to Santa Ynez, Calif., David blazed a trail to Los Angeles to pick up Aric Nelson, Shawn Bias and Chad George. He was still three pounds overweight and running late for weigh-ins. During the drive north, David ran the heater full-blast. While wearing a rubber suit, he leaned into the blazing air, as he and his three comrades stripped down to their underwear.
“We’re getting low on gas,” David said. “I’d rather be five minutes late than risk running out of gas, so we stop at a gas station. We pull up, and all these shirtless, tattooed guys come falling out of the car. Those people at the gas station were glad to see us leave.”
George wrestled with David at Sierra College. The two ran into each other at a Total Combat card in Tijuana, Mexico, a couple years later and have since become friends.
“I’ve traveled all over with Chris to help him train and corner for his fights,” George said. “He’s traveled to Canada and [Las] Vegas for me. Even if you look at the guys who’ve beaten him, Jorgenson or Bao Quach, those are fights he could’ve won. Chris’ worst problem is sometimes he doesn’t push the pace, and he loses, but he’s got more heart than anybody you’ll come across. If he fights the way I know he’s capable of, I think he’s top 30 in the world.”