UFC

Bellator 246: Davion Franklin says he has size, youth and talent to stand out in Bellator

Davion Franklin says he’s one-of-a-kind and will stand out in Bellator

For a couple of years, Davion Franklin heard from peers that he should give MMA a try. And after quite a wait, he finally made his professional MMA debut — and scored his first win — against JW Kiser in February. Now, Franklin looks to go 2-for-2 in the Bellator cage when he takes on Ras Hylton at Bellator 246 on Sept. 12.

About a minute after throwing an early head kick that nearly knocked Kiser off his feet, Franklin caught a rushing-in Kiser with a takedown and finished the fight with ground-and-pound, getting the win in just under 100 seconds.

In an exclusive interview with FanSided MMA, Franklin says the post-fight yell he let out after the win spoke louder than any words to describe the relief he felt to finally get his first pro fight off his shoulders.

“I think that I kind of just says it all,” Franklin told FanSided MMA. “I had so much bottled up; I just had to get that out the way. I just have to prove through my point and prove my worth, and I think that was the first step of doing it.

“I don’t really need credit at this point because…that was my first sanctioned MMA fight ever. I’ve never had an amateur fight before that was an I was fighting someone who was on a four-fight winning streak. and then me. Yeah, definitely. I didn’t get no credit for that. All people had to say was how much I was prepared for that guy…I shouldn’t expect people to think of me as the underdog, even if I am an underdog.”

Bellator 246: Davion Franklin says he gives Bellator something needed

Franklin has been a lifelong athlete; before MMA, Franklin competed in both football and wrestling, going on to be a junior college athlete. In fact, Franklin at one point was scouted by WWE to potentially join them.

While moving into MMA wasn’t his first instinct, he soon found out that it’d be the sport he’d feel where his abilities were the most applicable.

“It was in the back of my head for so long,” Franklin said. “It was a reoccurring thing in my life. People have been telling me I should do it ever since I was 18. I never pulled the trigger because I thought I was too cool for MMA, man. I played football, I wrestled in college, I was talking with the WWE, and when I was younger my head was stuck on my a**. But truthfully, I was amazed it was the perfect sport my skill set, and I didn’t know it until I tried. I didn’t think I’d excel as fast as I have in MMA. But this is my sport.”

Franklin’s professional MMA debut had been originally scheduled for Bellator 233 in November, where he was supposed to face Christian Adams, but Adams was forced out of the bout with an injury.

Franklin was left with frustration from the unfulfilled debut plan. His drive to train and compete increased, and he found himself working out several times in a day. His daily, continuous workout grind even helped to form his “All Day” nickname.

“I was so hungry, and I just kind of adapted to that it’s Mamba-like mentality: ‘You know what? I’m going to train six to seven times a day,'” Franklin said. “I’m young, and I can do it, I can afford to do it and that’s what I did. People were like, ‘Wow. You train all day. You always train.’ So I’m just like, ‘You know what, I’m going to call myself ‘All Day.” For me, ‘All Day’ just means to always keep going, keep pushing…be relentless in your pursuit.”

Franklin joined JacksonWink right from the start of his MMA journey, and his hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed. Last year, Franklin became the second fighter from the gym (after Christian Edwards) to earn the Jackson Wink/Mata Leon scholarship from Bellator, which Franklin said was a huge honor and humbling.

What makes it more humbling for him is that he has legendary coaches dedicating their time and business to him — even when they may not need to.

“Coach Wink and Coach Jackson are literally some of the greatest coaches — really, both won Coach of the Year at one point in their respective careers,” Franklin said. “To have both guys who believe so much to me, who’s put so much effort into me, that’s truly humbling. No matter how confident or a little cocky I might be, that humbles me because…they’re studs. They don’t need me. They don’t need anybody. And for these guys to…think of me how they think of me, it’s so humbling. And I think that’s the biggest thing — I just always don’t want to take [anything] for granted.”

Of course, going right into Bellator at the start of a professional career can get fighters used to the brighter lights and bigger stages very early on — but it may also bring higher expectations and pressure.

Franklin, however, isn’t bothered by that, even feeling he still could compete at a competitive level in professional football.

“I don’t think I’m at a disadvantage because I’m a one-of-a-kind athlete,” Franklin said. “I have the potential to still be playing the NFL. I run a 4.5 [second] 40 [yard dash] still. I still bench over 400 pounds. I have a 32-inch vertical. That’s unheard of in MMA. And on top of that, I’m a great wrestler, so I have skills. I come into the gym as this guy whose dream was nobody was beating up a couple of guys in the UFC. Of course, they’re not gonna want me — not having any amateur fights, but nobody wants to fight me.”

Bellator’s heavyweight division is filled with names and talent like champion Ryan Bader, Fedor Emelianenko, Matt Mitrione, Roy Nelson, Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov. But Franklin says he brings something different to the table with his unique physical size combined with his youth and abilities.

He says that he brings a refreshing, newer face on the rise — something that he feels Bellator’s heavyweight division has been in need of.

“Look at me, bro. I look like a damn WWE wrestler,” Franklin said. “And I’m one of the biggest heavyweights on the Bellator roster. I’m also the youngest heavyweight on the Bellator roster. I think those — not even talking about talent and all that kind of stuff — those elements will stand out more to those guys. After my last fight, how many heavyweights are watching me?

“It’s a new era of MMA and Bellator needs real talent, young talent, and I think that’s what I am.”

Not long after Franklin’s debut, however, the global coronavirus pandemic hit intensely and forced Bellator to the sidelines for five months. While some may have expected Franklin to hit another level of frustration due to more waiting for a fight, he says he actually wasn’t.

Franklin said he saw people on social media point out that several UFC fighters who were competing following the UFC’s return during the height of the pandemic appeared to come in out of shape.

He saw it for himself, and he reminded himself of that to keep in fight shape as the pandemic went on.

“I just thought like ‘These guys are not training. These guys are just chilling at home,” he said. “So, I used that as motivation to stay busy while the pandemic was happening.”

Franklin’s opponent at Bellator 246, Hylton, won his first two MMA bouts in 2017 but has since traded wins and losses consistently. He made his Bellator debut a couple of months ago at Bellator 242, scoring a unanimous decision win over Rudy Schaffroth.

While he may not have as much experience as his opponent, Franklin says there’s a way to beat him, even noting that Hylton may try to keep his distance and use his reach.

“I respect all my opponents as men, But as an athlete, we’re not the same,” Franklin said. “I’m not the same as anybody on the Bellator roster. I mean, I think this fight is going to end quicker than the last fight.

“I’m not going to knock his form or talk about the man…but he has four losses on his record. There is a formula this man…When you’re undefeated, there’s no formula. There’s no formula to beat Israel Adesanya. There’s no formula to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov. There’s no formula to beat those kinds of guys. Guys with multiple losses, there’s a formula to beat them.

“[But] I’m never looking past my opponent. I understand that he’s going to come ready to fight, and so am I.”

Bellator 246 takes place on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, live from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.