A few months back now, the 2015 Bloody Elbow scouting report highlighted one of the world's top middleweight prospects, Phil Hawes. In fact, he took the no. 1 spot on our list, just edging out Chechen Rahman Dzhanaev. At the time he had just moved to the Blackzilians camp and it sounded like he was looking to make a run on the TUF 21 season that featured Blackzilians fighters vs. American Top Team. Now he's back at Jackson-Wink MMA training under Greg Jackson, and everyone's paying attention to a fighter that could be one of the future stars of the sport.
"I think his potential is limitless," Jon Jones told MMA Fighting. "He's strong, he's smart, he learns fast, and I definitely think he's going to make an impact on the future of MMA."
Coach Brandon Gibson backs up Jones' praise of Hawes' obvious talent, comparing the former Junior College Wrestling national champion to Chris Weidman and Cain Velasquez, the latter of whom shared Hawes' alma mater Iowa Central Community College.
"Phil had what Weidman had and what Cain [Velasquez] had and what Jon had," Gibson said. "A pretty low record but ready to come in and dethrone someone right now. Gym wars are one thing, but I've seen Phil have some rounds in here with some of the biggest names in the sport and win decisively that round. But he's also that guy who can apply it on fight night."
"This has been a slow year, but it's been a big year for his fight IQ, his skills are growing immensely. He's one of my guys that, he just has so much potential, I know it's just a matter of time before we get to show the world what he can do."
Even head coach Greg Jackson had strong praise for Hawes, singling out his training and drive in a gym that includes Jon Jones, Carlos Condit, Donald Cerrone, and many many other top level MMA fighters.
"Very few people work as hard as he does," Greg Jackson said. "He's a student, goes to every class, constantly hungry, getting better and better every time, just an impressive individual, quite an honor to train a guy like him. The kid's going to be good."
From the sound of things, Hawes is going to make another run at the Ultimate Fighter, this time as a candidate for the upcoming light heavyweight season. That would mean a move up in weight, but that might be more a benefit than anything in an environment like TUF that requires fighters to cut weight multiple times over a short period of time. If he takes the reality show route, I expect we'll see Hawes inside the Octagon by the middle of next year.