Article by JAMES GREGG MMA INSIDER
It’s fun to watch Phil Davis train. Physically, he’s a beast, at 6-feet-2 and with fight weight of 205 pounds. He has the shoulders of an NBA forward, looks like an NFL safety and he never stops.
At Alliance Training Center, home of Davis’ team, Alliance MMA, the heavyweights and light-heavyweights drilled full speed wrestling takedowns, and Davis took down teammate after teammate as each man switched out fresh, keeping the winner in the middle. Five men went down before Davis was finally overcome. When it was his time to go again, Davis won five more rounds before time ran out. Each time that opponent had him in a dead-to-rights situation, Davis somehow defended, scrambled and scrapped his way to a win.
“Hey! We need help with Phil, this (guy) is in shape!” shouted Brandon Vera, a longtime top UFC contender and co-founder of Alliance MMA.
A four-time All American wrestler who won a national title at Penn State, Davis knows how to win, and he knows when he doesn’t know.
“When you’re good at anything, you know what it means. I was so good in wrestling, that when I got into MMA, I knew that I knew nothing … that I was getting by, but I didn’t know how to develop myself.”
Davis landed at Chula Vista’s Alliance MMA via an invitation by UFC bantamweight champ Dominic Cruz to become a training partner for renowned UFC light-heavyweight striker Brandon Vera.
From the first time head coach Eric Del Fierro worked with him, Davis made an impression.
“Some people are perfectionists,” Del Fierro said. “Most people will procrastinate and say, ‘Oh, I’ll learn it tomorrow,’ he (Davis) won’t. He’ll sit there and practice it, practice it, practice it until he gets it down. That’s how he was in wrestling, that’s how he is now in MMA.”
Davis ran off nine straight wins as a pro, evolving into a more well-rounded fighter, his only loss coming via decision to former UFC champ Rashad Evans in January. It was a huge leap in competition for Davis, and he struggled with Evans’ superior striking. After nine months of work, Davis says his game has changed.
“Before, I would jab to try to punch you, but it wasn’t really in a sequence of moves. I have my own style now, and I have certain games I wanna play to move you into positions I want to shoot into,” he says.
“The kid’s a star,” Del Fierro said. “I can see him getting a title shot in the next 12 months.”
More interesting than work ethic is Davis’ character. In a sport where some athletes are defined by fighting, Davis is grounded, often casting jokes at his own expense. At first glance, his moniker, “Mr. Wonderful,” and his hot pink fight shorts might lend an air of cockiness or flamboyance. Friends and teammates know better.
“Phil’s spirit, I’ve never met anybody like him,” said former Penn State teammate Jerod Platt. “He has such a light, that people are drawn to him, and he understands that. He’s always got a smile and is always cordial and respectful to everyone, regardless of how they can or cannot help him.”
The hot pink shorts? They’re for breast cancer awareness, sparked by Davis’ experiences dealing with cancer in his family and friends.
And “Mr. Wonderful?”
“My roommate (in college) had a cat and we named him Mr. Wonderful,” Davis said. “One day he disappeared, and I never saw him again, I still think somebody stole him.”
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis faces Wagner Prado at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Oct. 13.