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Phil Davis coming into his own with Bellator

Bellator Phil Davis
(Kristian Ibarra, Today's Knockout)

Phil Davis is tearing down the nice guy persona he spent the better part of eight years building and joining the bad guys. The former UFC light heavyweight contender is putting in promotional work like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the campaign trail for his upcoming title fight against Liam McGeary at Bellator 163.

It only takes a couple minutes of listening to Davis speak to truly understand how much has changed since he left the UFC and signed with Bellator. He sounds like a fighter who has finally come to the realization that simply fighting alone won’t cut it.

The entertainment side of the sport is lucrative and free for the taking, but only a select few fighters are bold enough to cash in. Most would rather keep the promotional part to a minimum, while giving rudimentary, crowd-pleasing answers to every question asked. It might earn a fighter the respect of fans and peers, but it doesn’t pay very well or land big fights.

Davis spent the better part of his UFC career competing as one of the best light heavyweights in the world with mid-card level recognition. He wasn’t necessarily the most exciting fighter in the division, and he kept his flamboyant personality close to his chest.

But that’s all over now.

The new and improved “Mr. Wonderful” has switched over into full character mode. That’s great news for a promotion like Bellator that is in desperate need of superstar personalities. Former UFC contender Chael Sonnen isn’t always the most entertaining fighter inside of the cage, but his larger-than-life personality could sell-out an event in the Sahara Desert.

Davis hopes he can one day climb to that level of superstardom, even if it means using McGeary as a stepping stone in the process.

“The fun and games are not over, the fun and games have just begun,” Davis told McGeary on the media phone conference. “You’ve been training for four months for this fight, and I’ve had over a full year I’ve put into wearing your butt out and dragging your face across the mat.”

“… [McGeary] don’t know no better. You know how kids are when they say things, and it’s cute because they don’t realize they’re not faster than a race car. You’re going up against a grown man. This is not a game, it’s not a joke. You’re in the big leagues now.”

Davis is coming off three consecutive wins over Muhammed Lawal, Francis Carmont and former Bellator light heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton. He is positioning to make his presence felt in the division by unseating the undefeated McGeary.

Bellator has been all-in on the Davis hype train. He has been featured in a bevy of Presidential-themed ads leading up to the fight.

The art of trash talking isn’t as easy as one might think, even though fighters like Sonnen and Conor McGregor have made it seem so over the years. It has to roll off the tongue in a natural and witty way. If it isn’t done exactly right, it can come off as forced and rehearsed. If it strikes the right chord, it can really boost a fighter’s stock. Bantamweight contender Cody Garbrandt managed to talk himself into a title shot against Dominick Cruz after only five wins in the UFC.

Davis is doing a fine job of planting the seeds for a superstar run. The only thing left now is winning on Friday night. Without a win, all of the talking would have been for nothing.

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