(photo courtesy Josh Hedges/Zuffa)
After a dominating win over Brian Stann at UFC 109, Phil Davis has been the talk of the MMA world. Heavy.com’s Jeremy Botter got some time with the national champion wrestler to chat about his big win and what it all means.
1. Heavy.com: In the 80’s and 90’s, you would have seen guys who win national wrestling championships move into pro wrestling instead of mixed martial arts. Was that ever an option for you?
Phil Davis: Yeah, I was never really into pro wrestling. I shouldn’t say that I wasn’t into it, I guess. I was into it when I was a little kid, but it was never something that I wanted to do professionally.
2. Heavy.com: Where did you get your nickname? Because we’ve heard rumors that you took it from “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, but then heard recently that you have no idea who Paul Orndorff actually is.
Phil Davis: I’m a big fan of pomegranite juice, and there’s a brand called Pom Wonderful. I’m always drinking those, and somebody came up with the idea of calling me Mr. Wonderful.
3. Heavy.com: At what point did you decide to give MMA a try?
Phil Davis: It just seemed like the right thing, you know? I hope that more college guys give MMA a try. Our style is just so good for MMA, our work ethic is good for MMA. The collegiate wrestler works entirely too hard to not have a better, more lucrative outlet available to him after school. You know, other than chasing the Olympic dream. And don’t get me wrong — I love Olympic wrestling. It was my passion, too. But if that’s not something you want to do, there needs to be another outlet for wrestlers after school. It should be like a degree. I mean, I pretty much did get my degree in wrestling. You should have more than one avenue to go down.
4. Heavy.com: You have some of the best wrestling we’ve seen in mixed martial arts in a while. You could probably go a long way on wrestling alone. How far away do you think you are from having a striking game that can complement that wrestling skill set?
Phil Davis: Right now, in the gym, I do alright. I take a lot more punches than I took on Saturday just because I put myself out there and I try more stuff. In the gym, I’m fine. It’s just a matter of time, you know? It’s just a matter of time. I can’t really even put a time frame on it.
5. Heavy.com: I’ve heard that you were kinda in the same boat as Cain Velasquez on the indie scene, that it was hard for you to get people to fight you. How much truth is there to that story?
Phil Davis: Yes, it’s true. On amateur shows, it’s so crazy. I just had to give up on amateur altogether. I wanted to get more experience before I went pro, but it just wasn’t working out. But at the same time, I understand where they were coming from. It is a bit unreasonable to ask somebody to fight me as an amateur, you know? It’s a bit unreasonable. We’d have a fight for me, and then get a call the next day saying that they pulled out. Then the promoter would call and say they had a replacement, and that guy would pull out. We would go through ten or twelve opponents that I knew of. And I don’t know if you know anything about the amateur circuit. But if your opponent pulls out, the promoter does not call you and tell you immediately. It’s so bad, man. So bad.
6. Heavy.com: How much of a difference is there in your mindset when stepping into a cage as compared to stepping on the wrestling mat? Is it different because you know you’re going to get hit, or is it the same competitor’s mentality no matter what?
Phil Davis: It’s hard to really say. Getting hit does change things. But at the same time, I like to think of it as just about the same. You’re taking the same amount of risk. You’re taking the same amount of danger. I’ve seen some cats get beat up in wrestling and I’ve seen some cats get beat up in MMA. My thing is that you have to train your butt off and make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
7. Heavy.com: How did you feel about your performance against Brian Stann?
Phil Davis: I wasn’t really impressed. I thought it was okay. I was satisfied, but there was so much more I could have done, you know? I won’t be okay with that. You know, I am my own worst critic and I’m my own biggest fan. And here’s the question: will the fight make it to the Spike replay shows at 10:30 at night? I don’t know. I doubt it. I’d love to see it there, but it probably won’t make it there. And that’s how people know you. I felt like the fight was good and it got my name out there, but it wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.
8. Heavy.com: After you won the fight, many fans started talking about the idea of you facing Jon Jones at some point down the line. Is the idea of a fight with Jon something that intrigues you?
Phil Davis: There would be no reason for Jon Jones and I to fight at this point. Right now, I’m a wrestler. I’m not a fighter, I’m a wrestler. Jon Jones got his start in wrestling, and now he’s a more developed fighter. That would make for a boring fight. It would. Is he a good fighter? Sure. But we don’t really have any contrasting style matchups. When you get two guys in there that only throw the whole time, you end up in a stalemate. One guy is posturing, the other guy is faking. You get two guys that only want to do jiu jitsu in there, and one guy only wants to pull guard and the other guy doesn’t want to hit the ground. So they get stuck in a lock, you know? For some reasons, two wrestlers always end up in a standup war, and wrestlers usually have a stand up game that sucks. It doesn’t make sense for me with five fights to fight somebody who, to be honest, was the first person I ever sparred. Ever.
9. Heavy.com: Really?
Phil Davis: Yep. So to put that fight together right now would be a stupid fight. And actually, it’s a stupid comment. That’s like saying “maybe he should fight Anderson Silva. Or maybe he should fight Rashad Evans next. Why don’t we throw him right in there against Rampage Jackson.”
10. Heavy.com: Your boy Brandon Vera is fighting Jon Jones. How do you see that going?
Phil Davis: Now I can talk about a fight that really gets me fired up. Now those guys, they are both doing it. That’s going to make for an exciting fight. Here’s where that turns into an interesting fight. They both started in wrestling. They both have this crazy muay thai style. And they both do crazy stuff on their feet. To me, that means that one guy might want to go for a takedown but the other guy wants to stand. They’re both real solid on the ground. Who knows where that fight is going to end up? It’s going to be craziness. That’s a serious matchup.
Heavy.com: Phil, we appreciate your time. Congratulations again on the big first win and good luck.
Phil Davis: Thanks a bunch, man. I’ve been hearing it a lot, but it still hasn’t set in. In my mind, I still feel like it would be cool to eventually fight in the UFC one day.