Canadian Alexis (Ally-Gator) Davis says she is star-struck just to be part of the UFC.
But the 28-year-old from Port Colborne, Ont., won’t feel like a card-carrying member of MMA’s largest promotion until she steps into the cage Saturday night at UFC 161 in Winnipeg.
Davis (13-5) takes on English veteran Rosi (The Surgeon) Sexton on the MTS Centre card headlined by light-heavyweights Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans.
A pro since 2007, Davis has won five of her last six fights. The only blemish during that run came in her March 2012 rematch in Strikeforce with Victoria’s Sarah Kaufman which she lost by majority decision.
Davis went 2-1 in Strikeforce, which was bought by the UFC, and then signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC.
Kaufman, who is slated to face Sara McMann on Aug. 28 in Indianapolis, and Davis are part of the 13-woman bantamweight division currently ruled by (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey.
Davis, who has moved to San Jose to train, says not much has changed since her switch to the UFC.
“My family still treats me exactly the same way, still gives me a hard time,” she said with a chuckle.
“I’m a pretty laidback person … I kind of stay under the radar. It makes me want to blush when people say ‘You’re a UFC fighter’ and I say yeah. I don’t go round bragging about it because for me I don’t really consider myself a (UFC) fighter until I’m in that ring. I haven’t had that yet.
“Once I experience that, the reality will start to sink in. But pretty much most things have remained the same.”
A veteran of Strikeforce and Invicta, she got a taste of the UFC when the promotion flew her to Anaheim and then Winnipeg for news conferences. While in Anaheim, she got to see her first UFC show live as Rousey submitted Liz Carmouche in the first round at UFC 157 in February.
She was also given tickets to the April show in San Jose.
Davis is no stranger to fighting in Winnipeg and welcomes her return to the Manitoba capital.
“For me it’s huge,” Davis said. “Obviously it’s my debut in the UFC but Winnipeg is where I had my very first fight against (Sarah) Kaufman so it’s kind of interesting that I’m heading back there.”
Davis evened her Winnipeg record at 1-1 in 2008 when she submitted Kate Roy in the first round. Saturday marks her first fight in Canada since.
The 35-year-old Sexton (13-2) is a British pioneer of the sport, who has moved up in weight to take advantage of the UFC opportunity at 135 pounds.
“She’s a very dynamic fighter,” said Davis. “She’s got endless cardio. … She’s like the Energizer Bunny.”
Sexton is equally complimentary.
“I actually like Alexis a lot,” she said. “I think she’s fantastic fighter. She’s got some really good grappling. I’m excited to be fighting her because I think it’s a great challenge. It’s going to be a really interesting fight to see how her grappling matches up against my grappling.”
Davis, who has black belts in both traditional and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, takes pride in her improvement as a standup fighter.
She has gone from rushing in like an Exocet missile to picking when to attack, from what range, and working in head movement.
The five-foot-five Davis started kick-boxing with a friend, then made the move to jiu-jitsu at 18. She switched to MMA after watching someone else in her gym training.