Last Saturday night (March 26, 2011), top UFC light heavyweight prospect Phil Davis (9-0) battled Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-5) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 24, maintaining top control over the Pride FC veteran and grinding out a unanimous decision victory.
"Mr. Wonderful" tells Pro MMA Radio he's happy with his performance despite the criticism he's faced.
"I literally started fighting two years ago. This is not something I'd been doing. Nogueira has been fighting so much longer than I have. It's crazy to me that I was even able to compete with him because he's so experienced and so much further the veteran in the sport. I'm happy that I was able to get a win over someone so tough."
Davis realizes the comparisons being made between himself and current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight title-holder Jon Jones, but Davis says he's still growing in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) and wants to move at his own steady pace.
"I'm just a young cat working my way up. I entered the UFC last February and I've had five fights in a short period of time. I've never once mentioned the title shot or anything of the sort. I'm content working my way up and progressing as a fighter. Everyone else seems to be ‘Oh you have to fight for the title because who else can beat Jon Jones?' I'm working my way up dude. I don't care what I look like right now. I'm winning and I'm working my butt off and I'm getting better. That's what I'm suppose to be doing right now, not preparing myself for the guy at the top of the division."
Davis was suppose to meet Matt Hamill at UFC 129, but Hamill was booked to replace Thiago Silva and meet Quinton Jackson at UFC 130. Davis was offered to replace Tito Ortiz and compete against Nogueira.
"Mr. Wonderful" says fighting either competitor isn't a walk in the park.
"They're both tough guys and they both have their own things that they're both good at. I would have liked to fight Hamill. I think he's a great guy. Now that I'm not fighting him, I can't wait to see him fight again. I'm as big a fan of MMA as anybody else."
In the opening frame of his bout with Nogueira, Davis struggled to get a takedown. While many fans and experts did not expect the NCAA Division I wrestling standout to struggle executing a takedown, Davis says it didn't surprise him.
"Nogueira is a great fighter. He's not just gonna keep getting beat in the same areas. He's way smarter than that. I knew that he was coming to fight. He's a great competitor and he is not gonna give up anything."
While Davis is happy with his performance against Nogueira last Saturday, he's in no rush to step back in the Octagon.
"I need my body to heal up and I need to train in the gym for about four or five months hard and if I see the necessary improvements. If my game is coming along perfectly and I'm making the necessary leaps as far as my skills and my comfort, then we'll take a fight."
Despite being in the main event for the first time in his career, Davis says he didn't have any extra jitters.
"I didn't feel anymore jitters. I felt the same. I have great corners and great coaches. I had my former Penn State wrestling teammate with me and he's just really good at keeping me light."
The transition from wrestling to MMA has been easier for some and harder for others. "Mr. Wonderful" says his hard work in the gym has paid off.
"I knew what it took to be a champion in wrestling and from that I just applied myself in mixed martial arts. I remember when I used to have the ugliest punch ever. You literally can not get any better until you keep punching the bag over and over again the wrong way. Then you realize ‘Oh this is so much better for me to punch the right way.' You have to spend time in the gym."