Former Penn State wrestler Phil Davis admitted that when he made his return to the area on Aug. 31, it was his first time back in a while.
Davis was in town — along with another Nittany Lions great, Ed Ruth — to prepare and promote Bellator 186, which is being hosted by the Bryce Jordan Center.
The 2008 NCAA champion and now father of two offered a look into his fun personality, noted he is a quality napper and more before his return and fight in State College on Nov. 3.
Q: After you left school, did you ever think about becoming an Olympic wrestler, or did you just want to go right into mixed martial arts?
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A: I loved the sport of wrestling when I was still wrestling. But one thing that I’m really big on, is knowing what you want to do and knowing how bad you want it. After I won a Division I national championship (as a senior in 2008), I could still wrestle and be good at it, but I just didn’t want it. I just didn’t want it as bad as someone else might, and that is where I feel people run the risk of getting embarassed. If you are doing something and your heart is not in it, there is a chance that somebody else is working their butt off and they want it more. They are willing to take the chances and sacrifice their body to get what they want. If they run across you, they are just going to steamroll right over top of you.
Q: If you had to go back and do over one of your fights, which one would it be and why?
A: I’ll tell you what, I’d do the last one (the match for the lightheavyweight title against Ryan Bader in June). I look back and I thought, “I should’ve done this and should’ve done that.” I definitely, don’t like losing titles, there are no words to explain how disappointing that is. That would be a good one to get back.
Q: Where did the nickname “Mr. Wonderful” come from?
A: “Mr. Wonderful” came from the cat I had when I was at Penn State. His name was Mr. Wonderful. The short version is that when I started training, I didn’t have any nickname. My buddies and my roommates thought it would be a funny idea to name myself after my cat.
Q: If you could have your dream wrestling match, who would it be against and why?
A: I got to go against Cael, man. He wrestled (1)97, I wrestled (1)97. He happens to be the best of all time. I just couldn’t see myself wrestling anybody else but Cael Sanderson in a dream wrestling match.
Q: What is one thing you miss from State College?
A: Well, there is the Creamery and then there are those sticky buns. What is the place, the diner on College Ave.? They have those sticky buns. So many late nights, I’ve gone in there 2, 3, 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and got a hot stickie, that is definitely one of them. In life, I’m supposed to be fat. I lived above PNC Bank my senior year. It (The Diner) was just too close and too delicious. If I was up late at night and couldn’t get to sleep, I would just go get a stickie. Why wouldn’t you?
Q: Did you ever imagine that the Penn State wrestling team would become what it is today whenever you were there?
A: Since the time I said, “Yes” on my recruiting trip, Penn State has consistently gotten better. Even when they had some years where they were rebuilding, they had some tough horses in the stables. It’s hard to say because so few teams have been able to do what Penn State has done. So, at the time, no, I couldn’t, but I did expect them to be able to win some national championships. Did I expect five in a row? No. Did I expect Zain to be able to beat everybody except maybe one or two guys without pinning them? No. Who can expect something like that? There is no presence for that. Cael Sanderson went the distance with people, for crying out loud, he won and they didn’t stand a chance. Zain is taking everybody off the mat. It is ridiculous how good this team is.
Q: What is it that sets them apart from the other programs?
A: I couldn’t tell you. It is a combination of a few things. I don’t want to necessarily say “hard work” because I think everyone works hard. I think a lot of people have good coaches. It is being able to cultivate an environment where everybody understands that winning a national championship is the goal and as a team collectively work together and help each other achieve that goal. You just don’t get that in a room, that is what they are able to do. There are so many champions in one room, it doesn’t happen any other way.