by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
With the popularity of the 145-pound weight class growing exponentially over the past year, more promotions are beginning to feature the division on their shows. Most recently, the International Fight League joined the ranks.

At December’s IFL Grand Prix Finals, the promotion crowned its first 145-pound champion in Wagnney Fabiano. Now the promotion seeks to build a contenders list for his title, starting with Friday’s event at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, when Dennis Davis of Xtreme Couture takes on Team Quest’s Ian Loveland.

There is more, however, to this match-up than the initial jockeying for position to challenge for Fabiano’s title. It’s a fight between a teacher, in Davis, and his former student, in Loveland, and recently it seems, it’s become personal.

In an interview on the IFL’s website, Loveland blasted his former instructor and friend, which came as a complete surprise to Davis, who states he never wished to face his former teammate, but the business of mixed martial arts sought otherwise.

“When they (the IFL) brought it up, I really didn’t want the fight,” stated Davis. “I like Ian a lot and I really don’t want to fight somebody I like so much. I just think that there’s so many guys out there that fight, other than someone I know and get along with, but it is what it is.

“I think Team Quest and the guys over there really wanted the fight. I heard a rumor that before I even signed with the IFL that someone said I wanted to fight him. I’ve never had any interest in fighting him, but obviously Ian and the guys at Quest wanted the fight.”

As Davis states, there’s more to not initially wanting this fight other than the fact that he didn’t want to face off against a former teammate.

“It just sucks because in this game, you lose one fight and you’re back on the drawing board, and I’d hate to do that to somebody I like,” commented Davis. “After I beat him, he’s going to have to go back to the drawing board and rack up more wins, and maybe find a new show if the IFL doesn’t keep him.”

Prior to this fight, Davis has been on a tear, winning all his fights since moving down to 145-pounds last year. And since signing a one-fight deal with the IFL, he has been experiencing success outside the ring to match that which he’s been having lately inside it.

“Since signing with them my name’s getting out there a little more,” admitted Davis. “I’ve had some radio shows hitting me up, I’ve gone out and done the belt tour with the IFL, and it looks like they’re trying to promote me, so it’s always a plus for me.”

Turning his attention back to Loveland, he addressed some of the issues that Loveland brought up in his interview on the IFL’s website.

“We ended up training together when I went up to Oregon last year to try to get ready for the UFC TV show,” said Davis. “It had been four months since I last fought and went up there out of shape, and yeah, after 30 seconds, I was gassing and he did get the better part of me.

“But I’ve tapped Matt Lindland and plenty of UFC guys in practice, and that’s what it is, practice. So, I think that he thinks that, that one time he did better than me that he thinks this is a good match-up.”

He continued, “So then I heard in his interview how he’s faster, bigger and stronger; pretty much everything I’m not, which I think is pretty funny because other than that one time, he never did anything against me.”

As for the match-up itself, Davis feels that it has the capability of being the most exciting fight on the entire card.

“I think it’s going to be a real exciting fight,” stated Davis. “He’s kind of a lot like me, as far as being aggressive and comes and brings the fight. He’s not like a lot of fighters that just sit back waiting for something to happen. I think we’re going to go out there and try to knock each other’s heads off.”

Even though he knows that Loveland will have range on him when it comes to the stand-up game, Davis feels the recent work he’s done with one of Xtreme Couture’s premier trainers will make the striking aspect of the fight a lot more even than it might have been in the past.

“Me training with (Shawn) Tompkins, Mark Hominick and all these hands guys lately, my hands have gotten really good compared to the last time (Loveland and I) trained together,” he commented.

“Since being down here at Xtreme Couture for the last year and training with these hands guys, my hands are night and day. I think that’s going to surprise him once the fight starts to see how my hands have improved.”

With the IFL’s 145-pound division just getting underway fulltime this year, Davis feels he could become the top contender for Wagnney Fabiano’s title with a win on Friday night.

“I’ll definitely be a contender once I roll through Ian; they’re going to have to look my way,” said Davis. “I’d love to fight Wagnney; I think he’s one of the top out there at 145. If you look at everybody he’s gone against, he’s steamrolled through guys – he’s dangerous – and those are the kind of guys I want to fight.”

Davis also feels there could be opportunities for him elsewhere if the IFL chooses not to offer him a contract extension.

“I think this is so far just a one-fight deal with the IFL, and I’d love to stay with them, but after winning five straight, the WEC will have to look my way,” commented Davis. “So I’d love to get in that promotion as well. Either one of those promotions, I’d love to, as long as it’s a top promotion and I have my chance to work for a title – that’s my goal in ’08.”

First though, he has to face off against his former student, teammate and friend, in order to make his way up the ladder to compete for a title.

“I want to thank Renegade Fight Gear, Broken Leash, Jason Winters Vitamins & Supplements, Denaro Sports Marketing, and everybody down at Xtreme Couture and Couture Nutrition,” closed out Davis. “Just like always, come out and check out my fight on the 29th at the Orleans Arena. It should be fight of the night. It’s time to teach Ian the biggest lesson I ever taught him, a little respect.”