UFC middleweight Phil Hawes was once viewed as a super prospect in MMA. However, a submission loss in WSOF in 2016 and then a highlight reel KO loss on the Contender Series the following year seriously lowered expectations.
Since those upsets, Hawes has built a highly impressive record; going 7-0 with five stoppages. After wins in Bellator and Brave CF, Hawes reappeared on the Contender Series in September 2020.
In his second shot at a UFC contract in front of Dana White, Hawes didn’t fail to impress. He beat Khadzhimurat Bestaev by TKO and was rewarded with a multi-fight deal. A little over a month after that win he wowed with an 18 second KO over Jacob Malkoun at UFC 254 on Fight Island. So far this year he has taken a split decision over Nassourdine Imavov and a unanimous decision over Kyle Daukaus.
Recently he spoke with Mike Heck at MMA Fighting about his progress and his desired destination; the UFC middleweight title currently being held by his old training partner Israel Adesanya.
Hawes explained that he and Adesanya were chummy once upon a time, but that things don’t seem to be as harmonious as they once were.
“Like I always say, it’s not Izzy I’m hunting for, I’m hunting for the belt and Izzy happens to have the belt,” Hawes said. “There’s no ill will towards Izzy, we were friends back in the day. We used to follow each other on Instagram, but then when I started winning fights in the UFC he unfollowed me. I know, it’s weird. I know he’s watching.”
When asked to further explain the situation with Adesanya, Hawes explained that they met at the old Blackzillians gym when Anthony Johnson was preparing to face Jon Jones. Adesanya had come to Florida to spar Johnson and mimic Jones.
4 years ago at the Blackzillianz training camp, a young @stylebender was brought in to help prepare @anthony_rumble for his fight with Jon Jones at the time.— FightLink.com (@fightlinkdotcom) April 12, 2019
This weekend catch Israel Adesanya in the ATL as he takes on Kelvin Gaestelum for a shot at Gold #UFC236 pic.twitter.com/UdCLzw5HS1
“I was at Blackzilians at the time. We weren’t best friends, but we clicked, he showed me some techniques, he’s got high, high-level striking. He showed me one of the techniques I still use to this day and that was maybe five or six years ago.
“We followed each other on Instagram, I had a hard time finding fights and I hit him up and he hit me up with promoters, he gave me the names, tried to help me find fights and things like that. We were always cool, then one day I was like, ‘What? Izzy doesn’t follow me?’ A little weird, but I know he’s watching, it’s cool. … I guess it’s competition now, so let’s get it.”
Last time out, at UFC on ESPN: Rodriguez vs. Waterson, Hawes looked to be in trouble early versus Daukaus. However, he stepped on the gas as the fight wore on and ended up being the clear winner on the judges’ scorecards.
Hawes told Heck that he didn’t see Daukaus as much of step-up in competition or as a stepping stone towards a title shot. Instead he saw him as merely “the opponent in front of [him].”
“I believe I’m the champion of the world as we speak, right now. So I knew Kyle Daukaus was tough, I knew what he brought, his durability, and I like to face that adversity. I still thought I was gonna knock him out, not because he’s a bad fighter, just because I believe in myself.
“I didn’t get the finish, but I got the win and I got to showcase some more of my skills and gain more experience and then all coming intuition to get me prepared for my five-round fight with Izzy.”
‘Izzy’ is currently preparing to defend his UFC middleweight title versus Marvin Vettori at next week’s UFC 263. Adesanya headlines that card, which takes place at the Gila River Arena in Arizona, above a UFC flyweight title fight between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. Those two put on a FOTY candidate late in 2020. Also on the card is the return of Nate Diaz. He faces Leon Edwards.