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Phil Davis: Leaving the UFC 'like breaking up with a girlfriend'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

One day recently, Phil Davis had to sit down and edit all his social media. Those are the kinds of things that happen when you leave one job for another -- or, in Davis' case, go from one MMA promotion to another.

Davis, who departed from the UFC in April, said the experience has been kind of strange. But he likes the four words "Phil Davis, Bellator fighter" just fine.

"It has a good ring to it," he said at a recent Bellator media day in Los Angeles. "I enjoyed changing all of my headings and all my profiles and pictures and such. Some of it is like, 'Man, I really liked that photo.' It's weird. It's like breaking up with a girlfriend. 'That was fun while it lasted.'"

Bellator isn't wasting any time with Davis. President Scott Coker and company are throwing him right into the fire. "Mr. Wonderful" will be part of the four-man, one-night light heavyweight tournament at Bellator MMA: Dynamite 1 on Sept. 19 in San Jose. Davis will join fellow top 205-pounders Muhammed Lawal, Emanuel Newton and Linton Vassell in the draw.

"I don't consider myself the favorite," Davis said. "I'm just working. I consider myself the guy who needs to show up and make a statement the most.

"Everybody wants to be ranked in the top 10, top five in the world. Everybody wants to be the best. I'd put myself as a way to get into that elite level of guys."

Davis (13-3, 1 NC) has been considered one of the five or so best light heavyweights in the world for the past few years. He owns wins over the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida and Glover Teixeira. Davis' only career losses have come against top fighters: Anthony Johnson, Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader.

The former Penn State national champion wrestler's résumé is indisputable. He's probably pound-for-pound the best fighter on Bellator's roster. Yet he won't carry himself that way heading into his first fight -- or fights -- with the promotion.

What Davis will carry is probably a smile. He's content in his new setting, where he stands to make much more money in sponsorships than he would if he stayed in the UFC. If Davis were in the UFC when the Reebok deal started in July, he would make just $10,000 per fight according to the tiered structure based on amount of Zuffa bouts. The Alliance MMA product implied that he'll make coin at Dynamite.

"It's hard to say exactly," Davis said. "But if I were a betting man, I'd put myself in the 99th percentile that I'm going to make more than that. ... I'd take those odds in Vegas any day."

Reebok was not the deciding factor in Davis departing the UFC, though, he said.

"Reebok's involvement with the UFC was not the straw that broke the camel's back," Davis said. "It was not, this could go really wrong or you might miss out on this.

"None of that factored into my decision. It was entirely based on what I do inside the cage."

Davis, 30, lets other people worry about the financial aspect and he focuses on training and winning MMA fights. He did say that he thinks there will "probably" be other fighters leaving the UFC for Bellator in the future if they don't feel Reebok is taking care of them.

"It all depends on how guys receive the new uniforms and Reebok as a whole," Davis said. "It's one of those things. Money is not the end all, be all. If guys are making a lot less in sponsorships and they feel like they're taken care of, they might stick around. If they don't feel taken care of, then money just doesn't solve it."

Davis felt taken care of by his sponsors then and he feels that way now. So far, Bellator agrees with him.

"I'll tell you this: life is good," Davis said. "I am a happy dude. I feel like I re-found my -- not that I ever didn't love training and competing and fighting -- but it's like revised eagerness just to do the same thing every single day."