Pretty In Pink
Undefeated UFC light heavyweight Phil Davis brings awareness to the fight against breast cancer.
Former WWF Champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart was famous for donning pink and black tights during his days of competition, a visual change of pace in the rough-and-tumble world of professional wrestling. A man with a different kind of wrestling background also wears pink when he fights, but UFC light heavyweight Phil Davis is doing it for a different reason.
Davis wears pink in recognition of breast cancer awareness, an affliction that has hit close to home multiple times for the 27-year-old. This month, in particular, stands out more, as October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I knew that one day, if I was in a position to make a difference, I wanted to do it,” says Davis. “Once I felt like that time was upon me, I decided I would wear pink shorts. Breast cancer affects everyone— family, friends, coworkers—and sometimes you just want them to know that they are not alone and that you understand their pain and struggle.”
Davis’ mother battled through several cancer tumors (non-breast) and survived, but he lost his aunt to the disease in 2009. In addition, his college roommate’s mother— affectionately referred to as Miss Bennett— is fighting breast cancer, but she is “grounding and pounding it,” says Davis.
PINK IS MY FAVORITE COLOR
To give the fight against breast cancer some recognition, Davis began by simply wearing the iconic pink ribbon on his trunks. After some lighthearted discussion with his publicist, he decided to sport pink shorts, debuting the look in his UFC 112 battle with Alexander Gustafsson.
Both Davis and his shorts continually receive notice with each passing victory. Now 9-0 and on the brink of some big challenges, the NCAA Wrestling Champion from Penn State will have a larger stage to make his statement in the coming months.
“As soon as people recognize me as the guy with the pink shorts in support of breast cancer awareness, they feel compelled to share their story,” he says. “Sometimes it’s about their mom or sister who beat breast cancer, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s not a happy ending. But the whole point is to raise awareness and have people open up and tell you little pieces of their lives—it’s all about showing support.”
The Next Round
Since debuting in the UFC with a decision win over Brian Stann nearly three years ago, Davis’ stock has risen steadily. He ran his Octagon mark to 5-0 with a decision win over former Pride veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in March, putting himself in line for a top contender. Davis got just that when UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones pulled out of his planned August title defense against Rashad Evans due to injury, and Davis was tabbed to replace him. In early July, however, Davis was forced to bow out of the fight because of a partial ligament tear in his knee.
“I followed my doctor’s orders so I wouldn’t further injure myself,” says Davis. “The worst thing you can do is injure yourself after you go through six weeks of physical therapy. Man, I do not want to go in that hyperbaric tube again. If I questioned before what I would do for MMA, I know now. That tube is just uncomfortable.”
The hot question now is when will fans get to see Davis compete in those pink trunks. He resumed sparring at the beginning of September and is slowly but surely getting back to 100 percent. Regardless of who the UFC puts against him next, Davis is thrilled to be competing against high-caliber opponents.
“I feel like my next couple of fights might be against former champions or a champion,” he says. “It’s an absolute honor to be at this level. To get offered the Rashad fight and now there is buzz about a possible Lyoto Machida fight—it’s very exciting for me. If I win, I’m on to bigger and better things. It’s a crazy time for me right now.”
When those fights come, the aforementioned Mrs. Davis won’t be watching, at least not live anyway. While she’s supportive of her youngest son’s efforts, Davis explains that she prefers to watch after the fight is over once she knows that he is safe.
“She puts her hands over her eyes and peeks through her fingers now and again,” says Davis with a laugh. “She claims she watches the whole thing, but I know the truth.”
When she does see her son compete, she’ll have a constant reminder of one of the reasons he fights—a recognition and shout-out in a color not traditionally associated with combat sports for a cause that’s bigger than fighting.
Breast cancer affects everyone-family, friends, coworkers-and sometimes you just want them to know that they are not alone and that you understand their pain and struggle.
I knew that, one day, if I was in a position to make a difference, I wanted to do it…
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Every year, more than 192,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, make a donation to help support breast cancer research, awareness, and treatment.
• SUSAN G. KOMEN FOR THE CURE
• AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
• NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION