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Maggie Hendricks

Still-evolving Davis ready for pressure at UFC 123

Maggie Hendricks

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DETROIT -- Before taking on Tim Boetsch at UFC 123, UFC light heavyweight Phil Davis had to face a tough ask. He was in the spotlight at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the Pistons-Lakers game. Davis was given 24 seconds to hit as many free throws as he could. (Watch it here.) For each bucket he hit, $200 was donated to Pistons Care.

By the time he left the court, $1600 was donated. He said he felt more pressure going on the court than he ever has in the Octagon.

"Definitely free throws. Wrestling is what I know, it's what I'm good at. Anything kind of, sort of related to wrestling, I'm good with. Free throws? No," Davis said.

Though he hit eight free throws, he isn't breaking any stereotypes about wrestlers not being able to hoop.

"Let's not wave it off. It can be pushed to the back to the things people say about wrestlers."

Davis was a national champion wrestler for Penn State, and is most comfortable doing that which revolves around wrestling.

"Everything works its way back to wrestling"

"Everything with me works its way back to wrestling. To me, MMA is like wrestling, and I don't know why I've been wrestling for so long and not been punching. Wrestling is so much fun when you can punch people. I don't know why I haven't been doing it."

Davis works with both Alliance MMA in San Diego and American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. He never wants to get too comfortable as a fighter, so he challenges himself by working with everyone from UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez to bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz. He's learned something from every fighter he's been around.

"I was helped by Jon Fitch and Cain Velasquez, except, most of his tips hurt. I'm always asking for help and they're more than happy to give it to me. Brandon Vera, too, really gave me a sharp kickboxing look," Davis said. "[Cruz] does a bunch of things that blow my mind. When you can move with a guy his speed, and land a few punches, you've got to be in good position and be able to move. He's definitely helped me get my footwork down and be ready to strike."

Davis' striking game is still evolving. He wants to be exciting, but is more focused on winning.

"You can go for a spinning backfist and miss it, or you hit a straight right. I think people will remember the spinning backfist, but if you get knocked out, no one's going to thank you for going for it. There's no style points in MMA. I stick to what I'm good at, and I stick to my game."

His hunger to learn, wrestling pedigree and natural talent make Davis an exciting prospect, but he's not letting it get to his head.

"You can't allow anyone to tell you your worth. That's both positive and negative. If someone tells you that you're the worst in the world, you can't believe that. If someone tells you you're the best in the world, you can't believe that either. You gotta be who you are and know where you're at. I know I get beat up in the gym every day, so it's no mystery. I'm not ready for a title shot."

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