EXCLUSIVE (Part 1) | Phil Davis Talks About MMA Draft Combine and his Collaboration with Urijah Faber
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
UFC light heavyweight fighter, Phil Davis, spoke with BJPenn.com Radio Wednesday night to talk about an exciting new MMA venture he is purusing with fellow UFC fighter, Urijah Faber. The two men have started, and will be hosting next weekend at the UFC Expo, the first ever MMA Draft Combine.
Now, only a little more than one week away from the event, Davis is more excited than ever.
“Things are going well, camp’s going well. We’re gearing up for our first day of MMA Draft Combine. This is my baby, so I can’t wait to see it, man, it’s going to be awesome.”
The MMA Draft Combine will run similar to the combines of other professional sports, where teams and coaches are able to assess the skills of incoming athletes. For Davis, the combine model was less about creating a draft system for the UFC and more for providing a structure to guide and facilitate fighters with their transition from amateurs to professionals. Though Davis is a success story himself- currently ranked in the top ten and soon to be fighting Lyoto Machida in what could possibly determine the next title challenger- he said that he really had no structure to get him here. He wants to channel his knowledge and experience- and that of other professional fighters like Faber- into a program like the MMA Draft Combine.
“That’s exactly the idea behind it. I wish I had a way. I wish there was something there that helped me get to where I am right now. There’s no blueprint. The people who have done it either go through the show, or they just loosely make their way there via local shows. The path to make it to the UFC through local shows, it’s hard. And sometimes, I’ll just throw it out there, sometimes there’s good guys, they win, and just never get the call. So I really wish there was something that helped, just channel al the talent into one pool so that the right eyes see these people; and that’s what MMA Draft is.”
It may seem like an unusual pair leading the first ever MMA Combine, Faber and Davis, but Davis said that it all started when he got the opportunity to ask Faber about his business aptitude. Faber is one of a few fighters to have published a book, and his sponsors have long been some of the larger companies seen on fighters’ shorts.
“It all started- it was, I thought it was the first time me and Urijah met, but it was actually the second. We briefly, briefly met at an autograph signing- I think it was at a wrestling event- but it was an autograph signing nonetheless. [We were signing together] at the table, I kind of just shook hands with him… didn’t get a chance really to speak with him. When I finally did get the chance to talk with him, I asked him, ‘Man, how are you able to do some of the things you do? How are you working with these sponsors that you’re working with? I’ve noticed that you’re really good with business. How do I add some of that to my life?’ Right from there, he started explaining different things to me; I told him about something that I wanted to create, which was MMA Draft, he added some more input into how it would be necessary and how it would need to grow. We were like, alright, let’s go in. Let’s go upstairs and make this thing happen. That was it, the rest is all history.”
As the days wind down leading up the event, Davis is confident in what he has helped create.
“I think we’re a really dialed-in product right now. The Draft is going to go great, and the fans are going to love it. Obviously after we get done with this… there’s gonna be a lot [of things] we want to add, like ‘Ah, man! Somebody gave us some feedback here, or somebody gave us some feedback there.’ Just a couple of things we’re going to be able to tweak and add to each coming year. This is one of those things that we’re going to continue to grow and branch out and add different things to. “
More than just a talent showcase for UFC matchmakers, the MMA Draft will provide a nationwide network of coaches, trainers, fight camps and fighters.
“One of the… things that is necessary to happen,” Davis explained, “is people see guys on TV, and there’s really good camps spread out across the nation- we want MMA Draft to help some of the up and coming talent to reach good trainers. Now we’re not out to tear people from their dad or whoever trains them right now. But, if you want to train in New Jersey, you know, hey- the Miller brothers are right there, New Jersey MMA, you know, you can go train there. There’s Mississippi- if you don’t already know, Alan Belcher is the man down there. You can go to MMA Draft and find what top trainers are in your area. And when you get to these top camps where they have the top guys, they exercise all the principles that are necessary to make it to the next level: safety, smart training, and just respecting the training partners. Sometimes when you’re at a camp, it’s not always that way. As the sport grows- let’s say a trainer goes on there, and he makes a profile, and all of his athletes are top-level guys, then people want to train with that trainer. Same holds true with a gym, or whatever. It’s a way for people to network and just locate- navigate their way in this MMA playground.”
For their initial run of gyms, the three main people involved with the Draft have personally researched and/or visited the various affiliates to make sure of the quality.
“Well luckily, right now, we have [our VP] Tommy. Like I said, Tommy is a workaholic. We definitely picked the right guy for it. If anybody who we put on our website to become an affiliate, we’ve thoroughly researched them. Everyone who is down as an affiliate right now on MMA Draft, I’ve been to most of them, and Urijah and Tommy have been to the other ones. We’re not just picking names out of a barrel, we’re talking quality camps that we’ve been to that we know about.
“I just hope that we provide the necessary tools for amateurs to really get the access they need to the coach scene to really own this sport, because I think this sport is at the amateur level- most of this sport is at the amateur level. Everyone who logs on, makes a profile on MMADraft.com, I want them to feel a part of the sport of MMA, whether they’re doing one thing: wrestling, MMA, amateur MMA, jiu jitsu- no matter what you’re doing, you’re still a crucial- you should feel entitled to be a part of this sport. You have the right to be seen and blossom in whatever you do. That’s what I love about MMA Draft.”
If you are an amateur fighter and were interested in participating in the MMA Draft Combine, unfortunately you will have to wait for next year, says Davis.
“You know what, we are [full], because we stopped our combine, we capped it at 100 participants. And we are all the way to capacity at a week and a half before the combine. This is, like I said, this is going to be a serious event; and we’re going to give the guys that we have all the maximum media attention. Next year is going to be even bigger, please do not wait! When we open up for registration, please get on it. I’m very, very sorry to anyone who wasn’t able to register this year. Man! It’s going to be an amazing event, and next year it’s going to be even bigger, even better. We will double it, make twice the amount of time and double the amount of space. We want to get as many people to the combine next year, but we stopped at 100 this year. Next year is going to be even more amazing. Still come, still check it out. This year you’re going to have to be a little… jealous, and come back next year for the MMA Draft Combine, because it’s going to be fantastical.”
“It is at the UFC Expo in Las Vegas,” Davis said at the conclusion of the interview. “It will be from… 11am to 2pm on Saturday the 6th… Please come, please be amazed, and I will see you there!”
Be sure to check out the rest of Phil Davis’ interview where he talks about his upcoming fight with Lyoto Mahida, a fight that could put either man in the next fight against the 205 lb. champion.