Jeff Chiu / AP
Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 | 8 p.m.
Dana White fireside chat part 1
Dana White fireside chat part 2
Dana White fireside chat part 3
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CHICAGO — Comparing Phil Davis to Jon Jones has always been inevitable.
The light heavyweights are two of the most athletic fighters to ever transition to the octagon from heralded amateur wrestling careers. Neither Jones nor Davis has ever truly lost a fight in mixed martial arts.
At this point, most assume Jones, the 24-year old UFC champion, is a tad ahead of Davis, the 27-year-old ranked in the 205-pound division’s top five, in every fighting category. Davis may have Jones beaten, however, in a peripheral area — dealing with the pressure of pre-fight animosity.
Jones admittedly didn’t know how to handle the first opponent who trash-talked him incessantly, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 135 last year, and let words get to him. Davis is dealing with the same situation this week leading into his UFC on FOX 2 main event bout against former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans Saturday at the United Center.
Unlike Jones, Davis (9-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) isn’t budging or backing down from the bombardment of words Evans (16-1-1 MMA, 11-1-1 UFC) is throwing his way.
“He’s delusional,” Davis said of Evans. “If he thinks he’s going to out-wrestle or intimidate me, he’s in for a shock on Saturday night.”
Evans started all the trash-talking drama, suggesting on a conference call last week that Davis wasn’t a true fighter and that he’s better suited to work a desk job. Davis, who won a national championship as a Penn State wrestler, didn’t like the remark and began arguing back.
By Thursday’s press conference, Davis was the one initiating the disagreements. When asked what he thought of Evans declaring himself a better wrestler, Davis fired away.
“Cocaine is a hell of a drug,” Davis deadpanned. “It’s crazy what the kids do nowadays. I’m all for using your imagination and it’s good that he has that, but no. He will never beat me at wrestling — not thumb-wrestling, not anything of the sort.”
Evans responded: “If we wrestled right now, I guarantee I’d beat you. You have a trash technique. You won your national championship off of junk. You are trash.”
It makes sense that emotions are running high for the bout because of what’s at stake. The winner of Evans vs. Davis will be awarded a title shot against Jones, according to UFC President Dana White, with a caveat.
If Evans emerges victorious, the fight is likely to happen right away on April 21 at UFC 145 in Atlanta. If Davis pulls off the upset, he might have to wait until later in the year because Jones could face Dan Henderson first.
The scenarios have confused everyone involved, so Davis tried to offer some clarification for White with a barb at Evans mixed in.
“I think what (White) was trying to say was, the winner of this fight will fight for the title,” Davis said. “But in the event I hit him too hard and break my hand, then it might lead to someone else getting a title shot.”
That statement set off another dispute with Evans.
“Phil can’t punch nobody hard,” Evans said. “Phil can’t hit. Phil punches with his hands open and everything. He doesn’t hit hard.”
Evans and Davis were originally slated to meet in the main event of UFC 133 this summer. But a knee injury forced Davis out of the bout.
Asked about his disappointment with not getting to fight Evans the first time, Davis said it was difficult because of how badly he wanted to compete close to his hometown in Philadelphia.
“Notice that he said he didn’t want to fight me,” Evans interrupted. “I just want to point that out.”
Davis shook his head and belittled Evans right back.
“Things have a way of correcting themselves and coming full circle,” Davis said. “Now, he’s going to get what he deserves in front of all these people.”
“Now, I get to fight here on Fox and embarrass him in front of everybody.”
If opponents are going to force Davis into grudge matches, he’s comfortable with it.