In the pool of UFC light heavyweights vying for a title shot, Phil Davis has usually been one of the more reserved. Even with eight wins in ten UFC fights -- and only one official loss against Rashad Evans more than two years ago -- Davis has sort of hovered in the quiet area of radar contenders.
In short, he hasn't been one to bang a gong in the media to expedite a title shot.
That is, until recently. Davis began criticizing current 205-pound champion Jon Jones for being overly finicky when it came to opponents. Davis, who fights Anthony Johnson at UFC 172 in Baltimore on April 26, went so far as to tell Sportsnet Canada that Jones should be on UFC payroll as a matchmaker, and that the UFC might as well hold "The Ultimate Jon Jones Fighting Championship" tournament to determine the next challenger.
Davis appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and said that those comments don’t necessarily mean there’s any real animosity towards Jones. He just views the champion as someone he’d like to get his hands on at some point.
"I don’t so much dislike Jon Jones -- and you know what, I have to throw it back to you and your colleagues, because I’ve been misquoted a couple of times," he told host Ariel Helwani. "But I will tell you this, I don’t dislike Jon Jones. I quite like him. I think of Jon Jones as a shortbread cookie. He’s soft, he’s sweet, but when I get my hands on him he’s going to crumble in the palm of my hand, that’s what I think about Jon Jones.
"But that’s just me, and that to me doesn’t mean I dislike him."
Davis is riding a three-fight win streak since losing to Evans in Chicago, with a no contest against Wagner Prado during that time as well due to an eye poke. His most recent victory came against Lyoto Machida back in August at UFC 163. Machida has since moved down to middleweight and beat both Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi to earn a title shot against Chris Weidman in May.
In the eight months that Davis will have spent between fights, the 205-pound division has undergone many changes. Jones is slated to defend his belt against Glover Teixeira on that same UFC 172 card, and already Alexander Gustafsson is in the top contender’s seat for his rematch from UFC 165. After Gustafsson there’s light heavyweight newcomer Daniel Cormier, who recently defeated Patrick Cummins at UFC 170.
And then there's Davis, who'll have to beat Johnson to hang around in that company.
Asked if it would bother him to see a title shot go to Cormier ahead of him, Davis ultimately said he had no problem with it because it's not his job to make those kinds of decisions.
"It’s not a matter of would I be upset if he got a title shot before me, that doesn’t really bother me," he said. "[Daniel]’s not making the decision to fight before me, and I’m not making the decision to fight before him. He’s not the boss of me, and neither am I. Why would I be upset about that? It’s just the way our company’s run.
"Joe Silva and Dana White, they’re running the biggest, best fight promotion in the world. I never wanted to run a fight promotion. Who am I to criticize them for running the biggest and best fight promotion in the world. I’ve got to respect whatever decision they make."
As far as Gustafsson, whom he defeated back at UFC 112 in 2010 and later trained with at Alliance, Davis expressed nothing but well wishes.
"I love Alex," Davis said. "I wish the best for Alex and if he gets a second crack at the champion and takes him out, I have nothing but love and respect for that man."
Of course, all of that is for down the road. Davis still has to focus on Johnson, who will make his triumphant return to the UFC after spending the last couple of years fighting in the World Series of Fighting and elsewhere. Johnson last fought in the UFC as a middleweight, but after a history of problems making weight, and coming in a dozen pounds over in his bout with Vitor Belfort at UFC 142, the UFC parted ways with "Rumble."
Since then he has gone 6-0 fighting primarily at 205 pounds, scoring wins over Andrei Arlovski and most recently, Mike Kyle.
"I’ve watched a couple of his fights, and honestly, it’s what I expected from a guy who’s a first class guy," Davis said. "He’s a top guy inside the UFC. He ran into a little bit of hard times at the end of his career in the UFC. He left, and it doesn’t surprise me that a guy at his level beats up on guys outside the UFC. He kind of doesn’t impress me that much, but, again, he’s a tough guy inside the UFC so I’d expect him to be even tougher outside the UFC."
One topic that was brought up was Johnson’s recent tirade on Sirius XM TapouT Radio about PEDs, about how he didn’t have a major objection to them. Because Johnson was so lackadaisical towards PEDs, some people grew suspicious as to why.
Though Davis said he couldn’t infer anything from what Johnson said, he did weigh in PEDs and the people who find themselves using.
"I have a whole philosophy on PEDs," he said. "Guys who use PEDs have to first admit one thing to themselves, [which is] ‘I’m not good enough to win on my own, therefore I need to take something.’ And that’s all the mental edge I need. You’re not good enough to hang in there with me.
"I’m taking absolutely nothing, I don’t even eat good. I don’t have a strict diet. But if you have it that you have to take PEDs to stay competitive with me, I’ve already won, because you’re not good enough."