The Curious Tale of 'Mr. Wonderful'
"I’m not expecting an easy fight like oh go in there and do a little trick move and tap him out in the first 45 seconds, not even. I’m preparing for a 15-minute fight, a long hard grind. That’s what I expect from this fight and I know he’s preparing for the same thing."
There is a legend of a silver cat in State College, Pennsylvania. He was wily, yet cautious, and loved life even though he’s lived through some tumultuous times in life. Born with distinctive silver fur, he went through abandonment, lived in a shelter, found a home through adoption and then met a soon-to-be fighter along the way. In the process, without using verbal communication, the cat taught lessons such as how to work through adversity, and that unexpected friendships can occur amid pre-existing negative conditions, if just given the chance.
Then-Penn State University undergraduate and wrestler, Phil Davis, learned these life-changing lessons, and the surprise teacher was this curious silver cat, aptly named “Mr. Wonderful.”
“I’m allergic to cats and my roommate came home with a cat that he got from the ASPCA and I was like, ‘why did you do that?’” said Davis. “He was like, ‘well I just wanted a cat.’ So I told him ‘well I’m allergic to cats’ but he wouldn’t get rid of the cat because it was a stray and he said, ‘you can’t abandon a stray twice.’ So we basically ended up keeping the cat and his name was Mr. Wonderful; the cat was cool. Me and my roommate split after the next year and the next place he lived he couldn’t have any animals so he gave him to me and we lived together for another year. I had another roommate and he let him out and I’ve never seen him again so when I started fighting, people said I should name myself after the cat, Mr. Wonderful.”
Not the typical fighter alias naming ceremony story; however, the real Mr. Wonderful was more than just a random house pet for Davis. This cat was around Davis during one of the most pivotal times in his life, when he was achieving all his goals as a collegiate wrestler and quenching any hunger he had within the sport. While wrestling at Penn State, Davis became a 4x All-American, 2x Big Ten champion and 10x National finalist and a National champion. Davis had gotten to the point where he was good at wrestling but didn’t love it anymore. He had accomplished what he wanted to get done in wrestling and as soon as he had accomplished his goals, he was ready to move on. Mr. Wonderful stayed through this and was a living memento of this ‘wonderful’ wrestling career and the crossroads of what to do next.
Unfortunately, Mr. Wonderful wouldn’t make it to see the next chapter of Davis’ rebirth as a mixed martial artist.
“It was kind of one of those things where I’m fighting for Mr. Wonderful because I don’t know where he’s at and I want him back. It was a joke but it fit so it kind of worked. It’s one of those things where if you just stay around the animal long enough you just get used to it; either my body got used to it or I got used to a stuffy nose.”
Since then, Davis has built an impressive record of 7-0 that bespeaks his increasing versatility in the cage. With 2 submission victories, 3 decision victories and 2 knockouts, Davis is certainly living the dream of a well-rounded fighting performance for the largest audience in the world. His last bout was a unanimous decision victory over Rodney “Sho nuff The Master” Wallace, one that he is not happy with, but will take.
“It was a decent fight, especially on two weeks notice,” said Davis. “I wasn’t real happy with myself or my performance but it’s hard to game plan somebody on short notice; you want to get in there and do the things that you know you can do to anybody versus tailoring a game plan for that guy. It’s hard to make a game plan and get in the gym and get enough reps in on the tailor made game plan stuff. Let’s say he leaves his left hand too low and I want to come over the top with a hook; it’s hard to get enough practice in to beat his mistakes on short notice. The game plan was simple - get in there, nothing special, do what you do and win and wrestle the man to the ground and beat him and that’s exactly what it was it was; nothing special of a fight (laughs).”
Next up is Tim Boetsch, a veteran of the Octagon that Davis knows is hard-as-nails and also true to his fighting namesake.
“Tim Boetsch has veteran experience. He’s been in the UFC, he’s been back out the UFC and back in the UFC. So he comes in with the mindset of I’ve been there and done that, I know how to take care of business, and I’m just going to do what I got to do. That always makes for not only a tough fight but just an interesting fight because you can’t intimidate this guy; saying Phil Davis don’t send shivers up and down his spine, he doesn’t care. He’s a wrestler and I think that makes him typically more durable and he just has that hard headed tough barbarian guy thing about him, that’s him - he’s The Barbarian, isn’t that his nickname? I’m not expecting an easy fight like oh go in there and do a little trick move and tap him out in the first 45 seconds, not even. I’m preparing for a 15-minute fight, a long hard grind. That’s what I expect from this fight and I know he’s preparing for the same thing. That’s what makes him dangerous because he can go for all 15-minutes and he throws heat.”
As the day draws nearer for Davis’ next showdown in Detroit at UFC 123, you can’t help but think about the silver-maned friend who changed his life. Somewhere, Mr. Wonderful is licking his chops, amazed at himself that in the matter of no time he was able to live all over, survive crazy situations and watch his wrestler turn into a fighter on the world’s biggest stage, and how wonderful that is.