In addition to becoming the top contender for the UFC light heavyweight title, Phil Davis hopes he can become the primary topic of discussion at his hometown barbershop in Harrisburg.
Currently, that crown belongs to Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who grew up in the area and went to Bishop McDevitt High around the same time as Davis, the featured attraction on a 10-fight card at UFC 133 set for Aug. 6 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Davis (9-0, UFC), will square off against UFC veteran Rashad Evans (20-1-1). Evans was orginally going after Jones' title, but after Jones injured his right hand, Davis made the card as a replacement. With a win over Evans, Davis can become a top contender.
UFC president Dana White said yesterday that Jones, if healthy, will defend his title for the first time against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 135 in Denver on Sept. 24.
"Winning this fight would definitely make me the most talked about guy in the barbershop for sure," Davis, 26, black eye in tow, said in a sitdown with the Daily News yesterday. "I am already halfway there, but right now LeSean McCoy, you know, he's holding down the top spot. He worked hard for it, but, of course, you know I want to be that dude on everybody's mouth more than anything."
His hometown tonsorium is the last place Davis needs to earn respect. He was a standout wrestler at Penn State, and his emergence into mixed martial arts has been nothing short of explosive. His bruising ground game blends with a nice clinch that has left him undefeated in UFC.
"I am simply a better wrestler than Rashad," Davis said. "I feel like I can make up a lot of ground on him there. He's also a little bit shorter and has a shorter reach, and that'll definitely work to my advantage. He likes to use a lot of wrestling, but I feel mine is better, so he'll have to use his quickness to get at me."
Davis, a social networking aficionado, has already attacked Evans on Twitter, posting, "I don't think @SugaRashadEvans got the memo you don't scare me......you wrestled at Michigan State."
Trash talk has always been Davis' thing. Prefight pressers are always riddled with banter, but for Davis, insults are a family affair. After all, it's easy to go about the work of beating people up when your mother is your biggest supporter.
"My mom is a gangster, man, she's legit," Davis joked. "She grew up in Chicago, so my profession is not real bad for her. I remember I was just starting out and I said, 'Mom, I have to go to Ohio to fight this guy,' and she was, like, 'Oh, I am going to come.' I said, 'Mom, it's cool, it's not going to be a long fight,' and she said, 'No, I am coming. I want to see you beat up a chump.' How many moms do you know would say something like that?"
Such support fuels Davis' dedication. In preparation for this fight, he is training twice a day, 6 days a week, sometimes going up against 10 training partners per session.
"It's crazy. I'll jump in with him, hop out and jump back in 10 minutes later, and he's still going strong," said Jared Platt, Davis' wrestling coach and training partner. "Our goal is to tire him out and build his endurance. Sometimes that can take a while."
"When I decided to start fighting, I wanted to be the best and then retire from fighting," Davis said. "I have an idea of when I am going to be done, and I am nowhere near that right now, because I am not the best. I need to keep training, keep winning, get the title, keep the title."
And how desperately does Davis want the UFC's light heavyweight crown?
"I want that pretty bad. It's hard to put it into words, but it's something I want a lot," he said. "I know it's something my immediate and extended family would be very proud to see me have."