Be yourself: Phil Davis can learn a lot about being vocal from Luke Rockhold
BALTIMORE — Give Phil Davis credit for trying.
After UFC president Dana White called him out last week, Davis has turned up his trash talk. He completely hijacked the UFC 172 conference call Monday, taking potshots at light heavyweight champion Jon Jones whenever he saw fit.
The effort was certainly there, but was Davis successful? And by that I mean, did he really make people interested in seeing a fight between Jones and him? That’s debatable.
Davis, who is undoubtedly one of the most talented guys in the division, came off a little goofy. He said he promises to break Jones apart "like a sugar cookie" and said Alexander Gustafsson made Jones look like a pirate after hitting him in the eye so many times. All of it felt a tad forced. None of it seemed like stuff Davis, an affable and intelligent guy, would actually say.
If Davis, 29, wants to really get people’s attention, he can take pay attention to Luke Rockhold. Once quiet and vague, Rockhold has stepped his talking game up a significant amount in the last year. He’s called out Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort, speaking mostly from the heart rather than a script. On Wednesday during pre-UFC 172 media availability, Rockhold fired a challenge at Ronald "Jacare" Souza.
I think I just held back a little bit when I was younger, but I realized that doesn’t get you anywhere I need to make money and get the fights I want.
"I think I just held back a little bit when I was younger, but I realized that doesn’t get you anywhere," said Rockhold, who meets Tim Boetsch on Saturday here at Baltimore Arena. "I need to make money and get the fights I want. This is what it is."
Rockhold told FOX Sports this week that Belfort has led a "shady life" and him having to pull out of a middleweight title fight against Chris Weidman was due to "karma." Rockhold was referring to Belfort’s past history with TRT and performance-enhancing drugs. Belfort would have no reason to fight Rockhold — he’s already beaten him. But by Rockhold keeping Belfort’s name in his mouth, the possibility of a rematch is always there. Belfort could want it or the UFC might try to put it together.
Bisping has been a target of Rockhold’s for about a year. And it must have worked, because Bisping turned the tables and called out Rockhold on Twitter after losing to Tim Kennedy last week at the TUF Nations Finale.
— michael (@bisping) April 22, 2014
It’s pretty clear that Rockhold doesn’t have to pull out a lame pirate joke to be effective. He also doesn’t have to go all Chael Sonnen and make things into an over-the-top comedic sketch.
"I’m not going to be fake at all," Rockhold said. "Chael is awesome. You know he puts on a show. The guy lays it all out on paper. I’m not writing any rough drafts before interviews. … This isn’t scripted. This is me."
And this is MMA. If you’re a baseball player, you can talk all the smack you want about an opposing team. It doesn’t mean MLB is going to put you in the World Series or a playoff game against that squad. Combat sports blur the lines between sports and entertainment. You’re only as good as whether or not people will pay to watch you fight.
The more fighters realize that, the better. We’re seeing more and more once-silent athletes turn up the volume. Tyron Woodley has and he’ll be fighting in a veritable No. 1 contender matchup against Rory MacDonald at UFC 174 on June 14 in Vancouver. Rockhold has lined up some interesting potential bouts after this one with Boetsch.
Davis, an admittedly quiet guy by nature, can do the same. He told me last week, "I just beat people." Unfortunately, that isn’t enough. Davis isn’t lying — he has a win over top contender Alexander Gustafsson to prove it. But does anyone remember that? Not really.
The former NCAA wrestling champion needs to remind us. It doesn’t have to be part of a knock-knock joke or limerick. Just get your point across, Phil. Be you.
"I’m just realizing I’m going to be myself," Rockhold said. "I am who I am, love me or hate me. You got to let your personality go. This is me. I’m going to talk."
Davis should follow suit.