After his loss to Raphael Assuncao at WEC 52, L.C. Davis spent more than a year away from live competition in the mixed martial arts arena, only recently returning to action in February.

He found plenty to keep him busy in the meantime.

Davis was released by Zuffa after his loss to Assuncao, a little more than a month before many of his WEC brethren moved on to the UFC as part of the promotional merger at the beginning of 2011. Despite posting a 3-2 record within the WEC, Davis had no problems with the decision.

“Everybody [that isn’t there] probably wishes they were still there,” Davis recently told Sherdog.com. “You’re definitely expendable when you’re with Zuffa. If you don’t perform, you’re gonna get cut, and I lost two in a row... Typically, that calls for your walking papers.”

A series of events have kept the Kansas City, Mo., resident away from the cage until last month. After agreeing to fight Jared Downing at a January 2011 Titan Fighting Championship event, Davis was forced to withdraw upon suffering a knee injury in training.

With no health insurance, the IFL veteran waited for the ailment to heal itself. Satisfied that he was healthy enough to compete, Davis attempted to become a cast member on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He lasted until the final cut but did not make it onto the show.

Davis returned home and resumed his training, only to reinjure his knee more severely. Considering that all fighters under the Zuffa umbrella had been granted health benefits around that same time, Davis could do nothing but lament his situation -- and purchase some insurance of his own.

“Yeah, it kind of sucked,” he admitted.

A visit to the doctor revealed that Davis needed surgery, and as it turns out, Part 2 of his extended layoff could not have come at a better time. Shortly thereafter, Davis found out that he was going to be a father. Meanwhile, he was hard at work with Strikeforce veteran Jason High on plans for opening an MMA gym in the Kansas City area.

Not surprisingly, the latter half of 2011 was booked: DaKhari Lee Davis was born on Sept. 24, and High and Davis officially opened the doors of HD MMA a little more than a month later. Once he became more comfortable with the dual duties of fatherhood and gym ownership, Davis was able to return to a regular training regimen.

Davis’ return didn’t go as planned, as he fell to Christian Uflacker via narrow split decision at Hoosier Fight Club 10 in Valparaiso, Ind., on Feb. 11. According to a report in The Times of Northwest Indiana, two judges scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Uflacker, while the other awarded Davis a 30-27 scorecard. Overall, it was a frustrating night for Davis, who struggled to get off the canvas against a larger opponent.

“I won’t make no excuses, but it was [near] the guy’s hometown,” Davis said. “He’s from Chicago, and it’s right outside of there. I just kind of lost a close, hometown split decision.”

The silver lining in the loss: it led Davis to seek a new path in his MMA career.

“Since [the layoff] I’ve actually lost a little muscle and a little size. My last fight, I fought a guy that was cutting from 170 at least to get to 145. I think that had a little bit to do with me not winning the fight,” he said. “In the future, I’ll be fighting at bantamweight and looking to make a run in the UFC.”

Davis competed exclusively at featherweight during his WEC tenure, which included victories over Javier Vasquez and Diego Nunes, but earlier in his career he took fights at 155 pounds when they were available. Davis hopes to follow the path of Urijah Faber, who once ruled the WEC ranks as a featherweight but has since risen to No. 1 contender in the UFC at 135 pounds.

“He’s made a great run since he’s dropped to bantamweight,” Davis said. “There weren’t a lot of 145-pound fights when I first started, so I fought 155 a lot in the IFL. Then 145 came around, thanks to Urijah paving the way. I made 145 my home, but 133 was actually my college wrestling weight all four years. I decided to go back down to the weight that I was most competitive at in college and see how that treats me.”

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