Photo of Phil Davis by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Undefeated Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight Phil Davis is one of the most jovial fighters you could ever meet.
In fact, it takes considerable effort to wipe the smile from his face. "Mr. Wonderful" even plays along when fans mistake him for UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
If the former national champion wrestler out of Penn State University has his way, he won't be a face in the crowd much longer as he's scheduled to take on top 205-pound title contender Rashad Evans this Saturday night (Jan. 28, 2012) in the main event of UFC on FOX 2, the promotion's second major nationally-televised fight card.
An impressive victory over Evans -- a man who has surprisingly been getting under Davis' skin recently -- could potentially turn him into a major player in the UFC.
The Alliance MMA fighter recently spoke with MMAmania.com about his finesse wrestling, his title aspirations and how he's preparing for the biggest fight of his life this weekend at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Check it out:
Phil Davis: (laughs) As well they should. Them shots are comin.'
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ok, seriously though, you're an incredibly physically imposing fighter. You were so physically dominant that in five of your UFC fights, two of your opponents immediately dropped weight classes (Brian Stann and Tim Boetsch) afterward and one left his country to come train with you (Alexander Gustafsson). Does that give you confidence at all now that you're stepping into the cage against an experienced guy like Rashad Evans?
Phil Davis: Yeah, it does give me a little confidence. Where he has experience, I have talent, skills. He has me beat in a lot of areas on paper, but that does give me a little confidence that I can still bring it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): People say that Rashad has the wrestling credentials, but that's not true. He was 48-34 in college, but while he wasn't as successful wrestling in college, he has been really good at adapting his wrestling to MMA. Is there anything that he does with his wrestling in MMA that you would like to do better?
Phil Davis: He does a lot of things good. He's high percentage on taking people down and that's good. When I look at his wrestling game in MMA, it's nothing really to critique. A lot of times he just stands and explodes to a takedown. He does a good job with it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): He kind of has this explosive-power style of wrestling and I was talking to King Mo before his Strikeforce fight and he said that you're more like a black Ben Askren where you're more finesse. What do you think is a better style for transitioning to MMA, having the power style or the finesse style?
Phil Davis: Power will come, but if you don't have proper technique, not even proper technique but if you don't have, I've heard that before, I'm more finesse than power. I don't know, it's all about high percentage moves and that's just me. I'm kind of "by the numbers" when I teach things, when I learn things, that's just the way I am. I'd say probably finesse versus power. It's funny though that you say King Mo said I'm the black Ben Askren. You tell him he's the black Cael Sanderson. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'll let him know that. Heading into this bout, it's more exposure than any time you've really had, more eyes on you than any fight, so does that have an impact on your gameplan or mind-set heading in or are you trying to just treat this like any other fight?
Phil Davis: I'm trying to just treat this like any other fight but it's really not. It's really, it isn't. It's a much bigger deal than any of my prior fights have been so it's not really the same, but we're gonna try to make the outcome the same.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It was speculated, but then Dana White went out and said it that if Rashad wins, he gets the title shot, but if you win, he's more non-committal and Dan Henderson is more likely to get the shot. Are you okay with that or do you feel like if you get an impressive win like a big stoppage or something that it could potentially overtake Dan Henderson?
Phil Davis: Give it to Hendo. I ain't losin'. Give it to Hendo. I don't care either way. You can give it to Hendo and there will still be a belt when I get to it. People ask me this all the time. There will still be a belt when I get there. I don't care who the person is that has the belt but there will still be a belt when I get to it. That's all I'm concerned about and if somebody else gets to fight the champ before I do, that's fine with me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With this fight, you were originally scheduled to fight Rashad at UFC 133 so you've kind of had Rashad in your sights for about eight months now. Does that extra time to prepare, is that beneficial to you moreso than to Rashad?
Phil Davis: Definitely. It definitely gives me a little bit more time to get ready for him, which I think works in my favor. I would say that but I think it's weird because you don't really start training for a particular guy until the last couple weeks, the last four weeks of your training camp. An opponent can change so quickly, you shouldn't even waste your time in the first couple weeks of training camp. You should just be concentrating on yourself, what you need to do, your keys to get better. Having gone through this process once before with the same guy and coming back to the same situation again, I think it helps, it helps me out a little bit.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've read that before about only focusing on a specific fighter at the end of camp. So instead, with all this extra time, you feel it's helped you improve all of your skills in general while Rashad has been training for Tito and recovering from a thumb injury?
Phil Davis: Absolutely, absolutely and I've got to make the most of it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It came out that you had been plagued by some injuries, you had a sprain before your fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and then you had the knee injury before Rashad at 133. Are you feeling better physically this time around than in the preparation before those last two fights?
Phil Davis: I'm definitely feeling a lot better than I did before 133. I just, my legs couldn't go. I couldn't go and that's a hard feeling but I definitely feel better than that. (laughs) I feel great. My body is feeling great and I was able to train pretty hard for this fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're a guy that's constantly setting goals, you've mentioned that you set big and small goals every day. What are some of your long-term and short-term goals right now, they don't have to be MMA related. What do you have written down right now?
Phil Davis: Right now, my short-term goals are all training oriented as far as what I want to accomplish in the gym every day. Some of my long-term goals, they just include winning, winning and more winning.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Mike Easton, a guy who trains with you guys, when he made his UFC debut last year, he kind of tried to fight like your teammate Dominick Cruz in the first round before coming into his own in the second. Does training alongside Cruz, does that kind of affect you guys by osmosis at all with your striking style or are you still trying to fight with a style that's all your own?
Phil Davis: I think I'm learning more about my own self and which style works best for me until I get it down, or at least learning to get it down. I'll never forget who I am, at least who I am now. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): And can you share a little bit about who you are in your striking?
Phil Davis: Nope, nope. Can't do it. I shouldn't even be talking about that. Cheese and rice, dude. You'll see.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your fight against Nogueira, you made some adjustments during that fight that really helped you carry on to a victory. How important is it to be able to adapt your strategy depending on what your opponent's doing and do you feel like you could adapt in a fight faster than Rashad?
Phil Davis: It's not so much adapting my style, it's more like looking at what's typical in his style and developing a gameplan around my strengths and not so much changing what I do for someone else. That's just not feasible. Put it more like this, it's more like rearranging the order in which I do things and not so much what I do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you were in college in the national semifinals for wrestling, a large amount of those fighters ended up transitioning to MMA or submission grappling like Jerry Rinaldi, Chris Weidman and Jake Rosholt. Did you guys actually talk about potentially getting into MMA when you were training and wrestling against each other or was that just a coincidence?
Phil Davis: It was just a coincidence, just a coincidence that a bunch of us got into it. Now I kind of regret not saying something, we all could have got started together, you know? It just helps having some guys you can train with. Those are some good buddies of mine. Chris Weidman and Jake Rosholt, both of those guys beat me, they're both tough cats. They're both big guys.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had Rashad in your sights for a very long time now, so when you visualize success against him, what do you see?
Phil Davis: I don't like to script things. I just try to let whatever happens, happens. I don't want to pressure myself to make the fight take place in one specific manner. I don't want to swing for a knockout, I just want to swing. I want to connect.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So you're not the type who's always getting stuff prepared mentally and working on visualization? I know that's really important for a large amount of fighters.
Phil Davis: I do a lot of visualization, but I wouldn't try to force myself into one particular "this is the way it has to be" type of thing. I'm planning on going out there and fighting my fight.
Phil would like to thank his sponsors Dethrone, BSN, Lugz, Headrush and Knight Transportation. He also wanted to give a shoutout to Team Alliance. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilMrWonderful.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Davis' athleticism be able to overcome his experience disadvantage against Evans? Will he earn a title shot in 2012?