Jon Jones might be comfortable wherever the fight goes, but the narrative is another story.
Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion and consensus top active fighter in the world today, defends his title Saturday at UFC 172 against Glover Teixeira, who hasn't lost in over nine years. Despite the clear stakes and global bona fides of the men involved in the main event, the week-long promotional push got off to a tepid start during a conference call with reporters Monday. Jones and Teixeira took turns trading lazy lobs over the Net, discussing respect, and hard work, and eating vitamins and all those sorts of things.
"It’s easy to stay focused on Glover," Jones said during the call, which was attended by Bleacher Report. "Look at the guy’s record. The guy hasn’t lost a fight in five years. He’s beaten 20 people in a row. He’s obviously a very special fighter…so I have to be on my game and I have to be even more magnificent than he is."
Then it was Teixeira's turn on the mic.
"Jones is champion. He’s been champion for a while. Most people are going to favor him," Teixeira retorted. "I think I did my job. I worked so hard for this fight…It’s a dream, and Saturday night, we’ll see what happens."
It could have gone on like that for a while. But it didn't. Because Phil Davis was on the line.
At every turn, Davis, who tangles with a dangerous Anthony Johnson in the evening's co-main event, kicked the hornet's nest, poked it with a rake and doused it with the garden hose. He indeed stole the early-week spotlight, though to be fair the spotlight wasn't exactly holed up in a bank vault.
Phil Davis: You gotta win, you gotta look good winning and then you gotta tell everybody how much you want to fight Jon Jones.— UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) April 21, 2014
Phil Davis: I “promise” I’m going to break apart Jon Jones like a sugar cookie.— UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) April 21, 2014
Davis is clearly following the (very successful) Chael Sonnen fight-making philosophy, which entails major trash talk to garner spikes in coverage and fan interest around a given matchup. He just as clearly had some material pre-holstered for the call, particularly relating to his view that Jones is reluctant to fight both him and Alexander Gustafsson, a Davis training partner who dropped a close and somewhat controversial decision to Jones in one of the best fights of 2013.
"Whatever Glover does to him…I’ll clean up whatever’s left," Davis said.
When Jones responded somewhat awkwardly that the taunt was "not nice, Phil," it only encouraged Davis. "You're welcome," Davis said, to which Jones replied, "I didn't say thanks."
"We all saw that you were scared," Davis later said of Jones' fight with Gustafsson. "What did you do to overcome your scaredness? Did you get a night light? A teddy bear? What do you do?"
Jones answered that, yes, he slept with a teddy bear. Was he joking? Hard to say. Luckily, the awkward silence only lasted for about 20 minutes. Even luckier, Davis had even more gems up his sleeve.
Phil Davis said Gustafsson hit Jones so much in the right eye he started to look like a pirate.— UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) April 21, 2014
By turns, Jones expressed real amusement, feigned amusement, patience, impatience and exasperation with Davis, with his awkward responses seeking that line between being a good sport and regaining control of the room. Jones ultimately got in the last word and reiterated his stance that he is not interested in facing Davis.
"I have nothing to prove by fighting a guy like Phil," Jones said. "If anything, he’s embarrassing himself with his antics today. I’m not going to sit here and belittle myself by entertaining Phil. It was funny at first, but now it has become a little silly.”