The ring announcer looked around the octagon inside a crowded House of Blues in Atlantic City, N.J. But the man he was looking for -- the fighter fans had stayed until three in the morning to watch -- had already made haste.
"Phil? Mr. Wonderful? Mr. Wonderful? Come back to the ring pal," the announcer called over the PA system.
After his 42-second knockout of Kevin Wall in his Mixed Martial Arts debut almost three weeks ago, Davis walked back into the caged octagon with a grin on his face. He forgot his prize -- a black T-shirt with 'one step closer to the top' printed on the front.
It was another new experience in a summer of change for Davis. He won an NCAA title for Penn State in March and then left the world of college wrestling to start an MMA career with LionHeart Management and Promotions.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Davis, fresh from a workout, lounged at the juice bar at the LionHeart complex in downtown State College. He confirmed his wrestling days were over.
"For me [wrestling] was a means to an end," Davis said. "It helped me elevate myself to a plateau where I had far more options than I had before."
The option he chose, Davis has discovered, was an entirely different realm than he was used to. One where you have to punch and kick other guys and they can punch and kick back. Fight promoters have taken the place of the NCAA, and a new moniker, "Mr. Wonderful," replaced his old title, "four-time All-American." There are ring girls, money prizes, new coaches, new teammates and new techniques. In three and a half months, Davis had to pick it all up quickly.
While his wrestling background made his transition to MMA easier, Davis said the sport is very new to him.
"It's a completely different sport and at the same time it has one or two of the skill sets that I'm already good at," Davis said. "But you just shouldn't assume that just because you're good at tennis, it doesn't make you good at badminton. It looks the same but it's just not."
There's also the grueling training.
Davis spends the majority of his days at LionHeart. He conditions in the morning, three days a week. He lifts weights twice a week, following that with two hours of Jiu-Jitsu and then either Muy Thai or boxing at night. Hard sparring comes later in the week.
One Friday night, Davis arrived at the LionHeart facility in downtown State College at 9:30. He pulled a duffel bag out of his trunk in the parking lot and headed into the gym. Compared to his captaincy status while at Penn State, Davis was the new guy at LionHeart.
But he wasn't treated as such.
He was greeted by people working out and riding stationary bikes. He was seemingly on a first name basis with everyone.
After some stretching, Davis headed into the sparring room and squared off with LionHeart teammate, Paul Bradley. Both wore only shin guards and four-ounce gloves.
Fellow fighters and spectators seated outside the room looked through big glass windows as Davis, a southpaw, and the shorter Bradley circled and swung at one another. A Bradley jab found its way inside and Davis' trainers offered encouragement.
"Chin down! Left hand up!"
Davis took a hard Bradley hook to the top of the head.
"Work the jab!"
Weeks ago, Bradley, a professional fighter, taught Davis to keep his head up when attempting a takedown so he wouldn't get KO'ed by a knee. Now, Bradley was the one throwing those knees.
"Keep your distance! You haven't thrown the right hand once!"
Sidestepping a flurry of punches, Davis threw a left jab and then connected with the right. When time expired, his trainers patted him on the back.
His MMA coaching has been the most extensive he's received in a long time, Davis said at the juice bar. His last year in college he worked out in solitude, running 30 minutes a day and shooting on dummies in an empty wrestling room. His former coaches didn't realize the extra training Davis was putting in, LionHeart founder Chad Dubin said.
Dubin remembers a conversation he had with Davis and Penn State assistant wrestling coach Matt Dernlan just after Davis won the NCAA title.
"Phil was doing some training in the wrestling room before we came over here and [Dernlan] said to Phil, 'Phil you're working harder now than you were this whole year to win a national title,' " Dubin said. "It's unbelievable because it just came right out of his mouth, he said, 'Coach Dernlan, losing a wrestling match is one thing. Losing at life is not an option.' "
Back at the juice bar, Davis got introspective. He said his degree in kinesiology helped him understand "scientifically and intuitively what he had wondered about all along." It was a major that went well with wrestling, but now that that's all over, Davis said he figured he'd start a career. He thought to himself:
What would Phil Davis do if he didn't wrestle or fight?
Davis looked up at the ceiling, he almost couldn't answer the question. He took a second, then came up with one.
But that's not the path for him, at least not yet. Phil Davis is a fighter now. It started when the cage door shut and the butterflies left his stomach in New Jersey.
Losing at life is not an option.
"I think that summarizes Phil," Dubin said. "He's got more to prove. This isn't just winning a national title now, it's a real life career."