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Davis says he’s 100 percent for return to UFC’s Octagon

By Kerith Gabriel, Philadelphia Daily News –

There aren’t many moments in his mixed martial arts career Phil Davis regrets.

Certainly not the opponents he has had to injure and embarrass to make his commanding rise to the top of UFC’s light-heavyweight division.

Or the exchange of insults he’s had with fellow UFC light-heavyweights, specifically Rashad Evans in preparation for their upcoming main event Saturday at UFC from the United Center in Chicago.

Missing his chance at Evans when UFC’s caravan rolled into Philadelphia last August for UFC 133 at the Wells Fargo Center? Well, that’s one thing Davis, a Harrisburg, Pa., native, can’t shrug off so easily.

Davis (9-0 UFC, MMA), who quickly rose to the elite ranks of UFC’s light-heavyweight division, had a chance to capture his 10th win in 10 UFC contests against Evans as the main event in Philadelphia. Elated to have an opportunity in front of family and friends who only needed to travel about an hour south on the Northeast Extension, Davis suffered a knee injury in training just weeks before the card. The injury not only cost Davis his chance at Evans earlier, but kept him out of action for 10 months. In the meantime, Evans collected his sixth victory in his last seven matches after punishing UFC legend Tito Ortiz into considering retirement in the second round of their main event at UFC 133.

“I was bumming, man, I was really bumming,” Davis said during a phone interview Wednesday. “I still wish this fight could have gone down in Philly. I was upset I had to tell all my family and friends that were coming that I wasn’t going after it … It wasn’t meant to be, man.”

With his knee and his confidence now at 100 percent, Davis steps into the Octagon on Saturday in a bout that will determine who will be the rightful No. 1 contender for the light-heavyweight title, a title held by rival Jon “Bones” Jones. Jones, along with Evans and Davis, is part of a trio that has had quite a back-and-forth in terms of trash talk and generating hype. Currently, the focus has surrounded Evans and Davis as Evans (16-1-1 UFC, 21-1-1 MMA) had the following to say about Davis, the man known around MMA circles as “Mr. Wonderful.”

“He’s intimidated,” Evans said. “I’ve seen him around and his not looking too confident. He’s not ready for this level and he knows it. He’s coming to put up a good show, go back down a level and come back again in a year or two. He’s not coming to take it to me, but I am going to take it to him … He’s not a fighter, he’s an athlete … He has no killer instinct for this and he’s got no experience at this level. He’s in deep water and I’m the shark.

Now to a great extent you can dismiss Evans’ banter as prefight hype, but as a Philadelphian, how could you not take Evans’ words as disrespect, even a little bit.

“I only really concentrate on the fight part, I don’t worry about the trash talk. It’s Rashad, he’s a talker, you know, he’s an actor smiling for the cameras,” Davis said. “I try not to let anything cloud my mind. Look, my record speaks for itself, I don’t have to prove anything. To be honest, nothing he says really ever crosses my mind … I’ve seen Rashad fight and I haven’t seen him do anything that I wouldn’t expect or handle. Is he dangerous, sure he’s dangerous. To Tito, yeah. But to me? Not so much.”

The one thing that has crossed Davis’ mind is the sizable layoff he had. It has been 10 months since he last stepped into the Octagon, and there is no doubt there is ring rust. But on the eve of his biggest fight in UFC, Davis says he’s ready to deliver.

The layoff has been irritating, the injury was heartbreaking and the road to Saturday night has taken far too long. Still, Davis will tell you he has no regrets.

“Sure, I think about being the champion, that’s what I am in this game for,” he said. “But as corny as it sounds, it’s really one fight at a time and I have at least two more fights to go before I can say that. This is what I am in this business for. I don’t want to waste time going after it. I have no regrets and I can honestly say I am ready to get in there and do what I do best.”

For Davis, in what has been a remarkable journey from All-America wrestler to world-class cage fighter, it appears winning is what he does best.

And it’s hard to find regret when everything you’ve done has brought you one step closer to becoming a champion.

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