MMA fighter Phil Davis’ most dangerous battle

By all metrics, Phil Davis is an elite fighter.

At Penn State, he won a national championship and was a 4-time All-American. Davis is now a Mixed Martial Artist, a Top 10 fighter in the UFC, the sport’s top promotion. On April 27, he defeated Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 159 to continue his ascent to championship contention.

Rarely do fighters schedule contests two weeks apart. Nonetheless, Davis is slated to take on his most daunting opponent to date,  an opponent bereft of the physical talents Davis possesses, but favored nonetheless by a wide, almost 9-1 margin. Unlike his opponents in the Octagon, this opponent has no code of ethics, and the rules are stacked in its favor.

The opponent is family court. He and his child’s mom, Vantris Patterson, are scheduled in court May 10 to determine custody of his young daughter, and he has already got the first metaphorical rabbit punch to the brain stem in the form of the false, uncorroborated domestic violence allegation as well as charges of angry sexual techniques that would make a lion blush.

Ms. Patterson’s mendacity is not a matter of conjecture. She filed documents with close up images of what she says are facial injuries (although no police report has been filed). When celebrity site TMZ and others reported the filing, she vigorously protested on social media that the images were not of her.

This playbook is all too familiar to dads nationwide who seek custody, shared parenting, or otherwise refuse to be quiescent in their marginalization.The Oregon legislature passed an amendment in 1997 meant to increased shared parenting. The unintended consequence? Not only did it result in less shared custody, but claims of domestic violence during custody dispute skyrocketed. Researchers Doug Allen and Brinig found that courts were unlikely to substantiate claims made by moms.

Or take the case of Bradley Howe. His wife walked out on the marriage. Despite no evidence, his wife then promptly filed for a protective order, which was dismissed. After Howe provided video evidence that the second allegation was false (for which Correna paid no penalty), she was granted the protective order because he came to her house to get his court ordered time with his daughter, and protested when she insisted the child was going to daycare, putting her “in fear of imminent bodily injury and in fear of continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress.” At the trial, when asked why she was in fear, she testified it was due to the motions he was filing. . . to see his daughter. That’s not my interpretation-it’s from the minutes. No allegation of violence, or the threat of violence.

Of course, even if a dad wins a 50/50 arrangement, he is not out of the woods, as elite male model Gabriel Aubry found out last Thanksgiving. A dutiful and doting dad, Aubry had the temerity to not go quietly when mega-star Halle Berry decided to break the bond by moving to France, the home of the new beau. Coincidentally, two weeks after the custodial arrangement was upheld, Mr. Aubry found himself on the business end of a few choice words and punches from Berry’s White Knight Olivier Martinez, who coincidentally was present for the first time during a transfer.The kick to the gut came within 12 hours in the form of a restraining order and criminal charges, the latter thankfully dropped with a veiled threat.

Ms Patterson is not content to stop at mere lies. The gravamen of her claim is his profession has made him more violent outside the ring. That’s right, in the cruelest of ironies, she is using the profession that feeds her daughter against their father, the same profession from which she will attempt to extract wages for child support.

This is the bizarro-world Phil Davis is courageously traversing, a duplicitous culture that shames men who aren’t present in their children’s lives, yet rewards the men who demand meaningful contact with the risk of scurrilous violent and sexual allegations, at worst, or gut-wrenching, tortuous long-term alienation at best. 

I wish Mr. Davis all the best, and will be following closely. Hopefully, his story ends more like Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade than deceased former Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Watters. Wade weathered four years divorce resistance, attempted alienation and then abuse allegations before being awarded custody of his sons and granted his divorce. Like Wade, Davis has the benefit of a well-paying job (read=good attorneys) and an employer who publicly stands by him.

That, of course, is no guarantee of success, but still affords him a fighting chance.

Update: On April 16, Capriati’s attorney waived her appearance and entered a plea of not guilty to all charges. Her next date is July 12. Not surprisingly, I could only find one link to the story in a Google search .

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