Bellator 222: Phil Hawes Traversed the Globe to Shore Up Stand-Up Game

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After a setback on DWTNCS in 2017, Division I wrestler Phil Hawes turned his focus to his standup game, taking kickboxing fights in New York and Thailand in an effort round out his skills.

New York, NY — When Phil Hawes stepped into the cage Friday at Bellator 222 in Madison Square Garden, it was his first fight in MMA since August 2017. A nearly two year absence, unthinkable for a fighter who was on the brink out breaking out. Hawes’ last fight had been on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, after all.

The problem, however, wasn’t just that he didn’t win the contract. It was that a head kick loss made it clear that he needed to make some adjustments. Especially since it was his second straight defeat. Adjustments were necessary. So he made them, earning a TKO over Michael Wilcox on Friday.

Speaking to media members including Cageside Press after the fight, Hawes explained that “a lot of people take a loss in the game, and they’re like ‘oh he got me.’ They really don’t pick it apart and analyze ‘how’d he get me?’ and ‘what was I doing wrong?'”

That’s not Hawes, however. Instead, the New Jersey native took a meticulous approach to shoring up his game. “I took time to travel to Thailand, fought there for kickboxing, switched things around with my camp and my team,” he revealed.

Later, he explained that “I analyzed how I lost. And I was like ‘okay, I was wrestling,’ Okay, because I’m a division I wrestler, so my wrestling’s solid. But I lost standup in that fight. A head kick KO. I didn’t want to just say ‘okay, he got me, I’m going to wrestle harder.’ No, I’m going to figure this out. I’m going to take kickboxing, Muay Thai fights so I get comfortable on my feet. And that’s what you saw today.”

He’s got a good thing going now. He’s also learned to move past the losses. “It’s hard not to doubt it, when you take two L’s like that, it’s rough. You’ve got to just believe in yourself, just believe in the path. That’s what I did, and that’s why we’re here right now.”

Hawes’ mindset is that, while he’s had to spend years shoring up his game because of losses, he’s not about to focus on the win too much. “The win’s a win. I’m not going to dwell on the win. The win’s a win, it was ten minutes ago. I’m thinking about how I’m going to get better. Like what do we got next?”

“I came here to be the best, so that’s what I want,” he added. “That fight was cool, but you know what I want. I want big fights.”

Watch the full post-fight press scrum with Phil Hawes from Bellator 222 above!

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