clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bellator 200’s Phil Davis is all about not fighting a big dude like Mark Hunt

‘Mr. Wonderful’ Phil Davis interview

Bellator 200: “Carvalho vs. Mousasi” takes place at SSE Arena in London, England, this weekend (Fri., May 25, 2018), with the promotion’s milestone mixed martial arts (MMA) event headlined by Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho (15-1) defending his crown against former DREAM and Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi (43-6-2).

Even though the Paramount Network-televised main card is overflowing with talent, it still had a little more room for “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis (18-4, 1 NC). The former Bellator Light Heavyweight champion would like to get his crown back, but Ryan Bader is a little busy right now. In the meantime, he’ll have to settle for a battle with two-time, No. 1-ranked contender Linton Vassell (18-6, 1 NC). Even though Vassell has come up short in both of his attempts to become Bellator champion, that’s no reason for Davis to look past him. Vassell avenged a loss to Emanuel Newton in a non-title fight and then dominated former champion Liam McGeary with a fight straight out of the Davis playbook. recently spoke with Davis about this key fight for him at the 200th Bellator card and, per usual, “Mr. Wonderful” is feeling incredibly confident going into the bout.

“I’m feeling great, man! I’m feeling really great! You know he’s a good opponent and ... man ... I just think I’m all around stronger, better, and I’m gonna go out there and wear him out.”

After Davis stated there were “many reasons” he was better than Vassell, I pressed him to give us a rundown on some if not most of those reasons for his bravado.

“For starters, there’s good handsome looks, and I got that. {*laughing*} You know I think he’s probably the stronger guy, physically stronger, but I think I’m the better grappler, better striker, definitely the better wrestler. I think I’m just all around a little better scrambling in and out of positions, I think I’m better at transitions.”

I won’t get into a debate about who is more handsome (that seems like an easy way to catch a beatdown), but I will say Vassell clearly learned a few tricks from Davis before his Liam McGeary fight.

“You never want to look at a guy’s performance and say, ‘Hey man! You just did what I did.’ You know that’s not giving him credit. {*laughing*} At the same it’s weird because Linton — for a guy who has not wrestled — he tends to be the wrestler in a lot of his fights. So I think he just said, ‘Alright, well, I’ll just wrestle him. If he can’t wrestle that’s what I’ll do to him.’ So yeah, he took him down bunches of times.”

It dawns on me the real reason Davis is so jovial for this interview — he’s a four-time Division I All-American collegiate wrestling standout going up against a guy who likes to wrestle, but doesn’t have Penn State University credentials.

“That tends to work perfectly against me! I think you should try to wrestle me down to the ground! Everybody who wrestles me beats me ... that’s, that’s sarcasm. {*laughing*} The times I’ve lost have all been because of different reasons and they’re all (to) high level guys who specialize in what they do. I invite him, I invite anybody, go ahead and try to figure out that puzzle on your own. I don’t think there’s a certain thing that will work. Wrestling certainly is not it, but I do invite him to try.”

Joking or not the only guy who’s had his number from 2015 until now is Ryan Bader. I had to know if Davis was frustrated that by Bader’s own admission the 205-pound title is on ice until the Heavyweight Grand Prix ends or Bader gets bumped out of it.

“There’s part of me that says, ‘Yeah that’s not fair!’ But, the part of me that’s a fair honest and hardworking sportsman understands when you lose it’s because you lost (and) I won’t ever blame anyone else other than myself and I’m gonna work as hard as I possibly can to get that title back. So he can run and hide, go up to Heavyweight, get beat up. When you’re done playing games I’ll be here ... and I’m gonna want that title back!”

Is there any part of “Mr. Wonderful” that feels it would have been wonderful to enter the Grand Prix to get revenge on Bader or possibly even become a champion at a different weight altogether?

“You know what there’s some guys out there in Heavyweight who I know I can beat. There’s some other guys that are just too gosh darn big. Take a guy like Mark Hunt. Man, that’s a big dude! It bothers me that if someone said, ‘I want you to fight Mark Hunt’ I’d probably turn that down! And I don’t like to turn down anything. I like to be completely truthful and say I’ll fight anybody you put in front of me. Anybody that’s a Light Heavyweight, put ‘em in front of me, I’ll fight ‘em — no problem. And there’s some guys at Heavyweight I’m like, ‘YEAHHH - maybe!!’ Actually I could be talked into fighting Mark Hunt. Just let me think about it, let me toss around the idea and get my gameplan together, I’ll think about it. {*laughing*} But, he’s a tall order.”

Maybe that’s one other reason Davis is so happy to be fighting Linton Vassell — he doesn’t have to worry about taking a Heavyweight punch even though “The Swarm” has a formidable 82-inch reach.

“Definitely a rangy guy. But, uhh, I think uhh, I wouldn’t say cardio is an issue, but I wouldn’t say it’s not an issue — you know? I think he’s a good opponent and he’s well trained, I just all around think I’m better.”

And thus we’ve come full circle, much like Davis hopes to do when he gets one more crack at Bader.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 200: “Carvalho vs. Mousasi” resides here at all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania