Article by Steven Marrocco and Dann Stupp
CHICAGO â€“ It’s one of those seemingly one-sided UFC deals: If fighter “A” wins this fight, he gets a title shot. If fighter “B” wins, well, great job!
You can imagine how fighter “B” feels to get another reminder of the oh-so-frequent lesson that life is rarely fair.
Maybe Phil Davis (9-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) is just playing Pollyanna, but he today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that he expects a title shot if he beats Rashad Evans (16-1-1 MMA, 11-1-1 UFC) at UFC on FOX 2, which takes place Saturday at Chicago’s United Center and airs live on FOX.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “The performance I put on, people will say, ‘Man, I cannot wait to see him do this every weekend on FOX.’ So I don’t worry about what comes next because I’m confident I’ll have a great performance and there will be nothing other than great things ahead for me.”
This is the point where reporters issue the reminder. Did he not hear what UFC president Dana White said? Evans gets the title shot, period. No such promise for him, other than that oh-so-coveted designation of “in the mix.”
“It’s almost like he and I are on the same page,” Davis said. “It’s like he’s saying everything that I was going to say myself. It’s fine with me.”
No, but dude, seriously. If you win on Saturday night, Dan Henderson will fight light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones. That’s gotta sting, right?
“Why should I care?” Davis said. “I plan on winning, and winning will land you in the same spot, regardless. I don’t care what goes on if it doesn’t involve me.”
Davis has been going along just fine in the three years he’s called MMA his profession. He’s leveraged a highly decorated amateur wrestling career into success as a fighter and managed to gain the kind of career traction that would make some veterans cry.
Maybe he’s done it so quickly because he’s maintained a humorous naivete in the process that runs counter to the usual bluster and bravado that accompanies so many fighters young in their career. Maybe he ‘s stayed away from the soapbox when it comes to what’s supposedly owed him. Maybe it’s because he’s won six consecutive UFC fights.
Whatever the cause, when people get serious about where he should be or what he should feel, as they have since he took a leap this past year from promising prospect to future contender, he breezes along, la-dee-da. He won’t overextend himself when it comes to the expectations of others and of those he puts on himself, though as a seasoned competitor, they are undoubtedly strong in his mind.
“I think it would be beyond ambitious to say I saw this happening so soon,” Davis said. “I didn’t know nine wins could get you to No. 1 contender status, to be honest. So I’m very thankful that I’ve made this path for myself.”
Whether he’ll admit it or not, though, Davis’ cool exterior has hardened since he took Saturday’s fight. Evans has attacked him directly and personally, at one point invoking a horrific scandal involving his alma mater, Penn State. For the first time, he’s been put on the defensive and forced to engage in a kind of talk that’s alien to his personality. Just this past week, the two turned a pre-event teleconference into a blur of back-and-forth jawing that recalled Evans’ grudge match with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 114.
Evans, who’s seen a title shot slip through his hands multiple times due to injury, called Davis a competitor but not a fighter in one of several barbs he threw out on the call.
“I think what he means is I’m a gentleman,” Davis bristled. “He wouldn’t know anything about that. Sometimes, you just recognize if somebody’s different. I think that’s what he’s trying to say.”
But Davis has his own opinion on Evans, which he might not have shared before. He might just as well call Evans a fighter but not a competitor for all the comparisons that have been made in the media about their respective wrestling skills (Evans wrestled at the Division I Michigan State University while Davis won an NCAA title at the Division I Penn State University).
“I admire the wrestling comparisons because he doesn’t really have one to speak of,” Davis said. “There’s my wrestling achievements, and then there’s his. He’s roughly .500.
“So, he competed.”
So this new Phil Davis is a little more self-assured than before, maybe. But along with a positive attitude, that might be a good thing to have in this business, especially when it comes to assuring your employers that you’re ready for the ultimate opportunity.
Whenever they’re ready, that is.