Phil Davis. Did you forget about him? Well, he’s making it more difficult to ignore him these days.

A perennial top-five caliber fighter in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, Davis has been on the sidelines since last August. But, yes, he’s still on the UFC roster, and he will be competing at UFC 172. Although he hasn’t been active in the cage, it seems the time spent outside it has finally given Davis the knowledge of how to get a title shot in today’s UFC.

Not known for being a cocky or brash fighter, Davis has been the quintessential “Mr. Nice Guy” thus far in his UFC career. In fact, he has been so under the radar that fans have even confused him with current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones on more than a few occasions. For many people, the one fight they think of when pondering Davis is his fight with Rashad Evans back in January of 2012. It was clear Davis wasn’t ready for the bright lights of competing in UFC main events, and he was subsequently handled with ease by Evans. Since then, Davis has rattled off three consecutive wins (with one no-contest due to an eye poke). His most recent victory came against former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida.

The fight with Machida left a sour aftertaste in people’s mouths for the way it went down. Machida’s style has never been what one would call “judge-friendly,” and Davis seemed content to not press the action until near the end of the rounds. It was a close fight, and it could have easily been argued for either man’s hand to be raised. But instead of getting a chance at redemption, Davis has been sitting on the sidelines.

He was on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to promote his upcoming fight with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at UFC 172, but managed to take a few potshots at the UFC light heavyweight champ, too.

“But I will tell you this, I don’t dislike Jon Jones,” Davis said on the show. “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.”

This comes on the heels of Davis throwing a verbal jab at Jones’ matchmaking skills, saying the UFC should hold “The Ultimate Jon Jones Fighting Championship” tournament to determine the next challenger. It’s a sentiment echoed by many in the MMA community after Jones has put his Joe Silva cap on by hand-picking his opponents and suggesting match-ups for his future title challengers to compete in before he’s willing to deem them worthy of a title shot.

Davis is finally understanding that it takes a lot more than winning in the cage to get a title bid these days. Gone are the days of guys being awarded the chance to fight for a championship based solely on their record. It’s not always about how many times you’ve had your hand raised, but about how many butts you can put in the seats come fight night. Fighters today have much more to worry about than just throwing a proper jab or working on their takedown defense. Each fighter has a brand that they must promote, either in social media or on television.

Up until now, Davis has played the nice-guy role and it’s worked somewhat for him. But if he continues to get his name out there across social networks and MMA media outlets, it will only lead to a bigger following. Whether they’re tuning in to watch him win or hope the guy he’s fighting knocks him unconscious, the important part is that they tune in. Davis had become a forgotten player in the scheme of light heavyweight title shots after Glover Teixeira, Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier. With these recent comments, however, Davis has at least injected some new life into his UFC career.

He can further his cause with a win over Johnson at UFC 172. Although Johnson has been outside the UFC since getting tapped out by Vitor Belfort (and the weight scale), he’s a dangerous opponent who is considered a quality fighter. With a victory over Johnson, Davis would have wins over two top-10 light heavyweights within a year. There aren’t many 205-pounders that can lay claim to that.

Davis doesn’t have to go full heel à la Chael Sonnen in order to get recognition, but saying something is always better than saying nothing. There’s still room in the sport for the nice guys, but the nice guys still have to speak up. Furthermore, they have to be just as loud as the bad guys. Davis has the credentials on paper to be a title challenger. Now, he just needs the credentials with a microphone to complete the objective of facing the UFC champion.

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.