Every fighter dreams of reaching the pinnacle of the sport and testing their skills inside the Octagon. Yet, most understand there is a good chance that opportunity may not come with ideal conditions and they may have to make their official UFC debut in hostile territory. With the organization’s global expansion in full swing and the competition for roster spots more intense than ever before, a fighter looking to make their way into the UFC may have to traverse some sizable obstacles before they ever get to enjoy the scenery.
Danny Mitchell is one of the few who will get the chance to make his first impression in exactly the type of situation he’s always dreamed about. The 27-year-old Doncaster native’s first showing under the UFC banner will come in his own backyard when the Octagon returns to London for Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa on March 8. “The Cheesecake Assassin” will bring his colorful nickname and two fight winning streak into the O2 Arena on Saturday night, when he will square off with Jackson’s MMA product Igor Araujo - who made an impressive debut by defeating Ildemar Alcantara back in October.
Fighting in the UFC in front of a crowd filled with his countrymen is the ideal situation for Mitchell and he believes it will bring out the very best he has to offer. Crowds in the U.K. are notorious for being a lively bunch who get excited at the potential for a good dust up, and a healthy bit of ruckus is precisely what Mitchell intends to give them on Saturday night.
“It’s great to be making my debut in England,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got a massive support going down and I cannot wait to get to the arena and get in the mood for a good ol’ scrap. I’m hoping for an exciting fight with a couple of crazy moves to spice up the night and get me that bonus.
“[Araujo] was on TUF and made a successful debut against Alcantara in the UFC. He’s got a similar style to myself, basing a lot on his technical jiu-jitsu, so it’s an interesting matchup to see how we will both play the game. We both like choking people, but I am sure we won’t mind punching each other in the face too.”
The current state of affairs at the top level of MMA leaves little room for error where progress is concerned. The sport is growing at a rapid rate, and the UFC exploding across the globe has opened doors in places where a career in combat sports may not have been an option in previous years. Yet, while more and more fighters are working toward a place on the UFC roster, the organization’s roster isn’t necessarily expanding by leaps and bounds.
This makes every trip into the Octagon a crucial step and one that brings a unique amount of pressure. In that regard, Mitchell isn’t concerned with hovering circumstance, and he has opted to use it for motivational purposes.
“I deal with pressure pretty well,” Mitchell said. “I always have a relaxed attitude towards fighting that some people don't understand, but at the end of the day you train as hard as you can, then you get in the cage and the rest is history. Some people put so much pressure on themselves to perform that when it comes down to it they end up under-performing on the night. Every fight is important to me and I will be looking to finish the fight at every opportunity.”
When Mitchell squares off with Araujo this weekend, it will be the culmination of all the hard work he’s invested over the past six years. The Englishman has traveled the European MMA circuit and consistently tested his skills against the best competition to be found in each region. To Mitchell, every step taken has been a necessary element to growing his skill set and preparing him to step up to the next level of competition in the UFC.
“To be fair I’ve had a lot of injuries for the past few years so it’s been hard to really get into the groove, but now I am managing my training a lot better and I feel like now is the perfect time to make a solid run in the UFC.
“I feel pretty good in all areas right now, but I would say my wrestling has improved a lot recently and I feel a lot more confident in it, but in the fight anything can happen so I am making sure that I am prepared wherever the fight goes.”
While the outcome of his upcoming tilt is yet to be determined, one area Mitchell has already left an impression on comes in the nickname department. Where the majority of monikers are used to bolster intimidation or pump some angle toward the fighter involved having a love for the scrap, the English welterweight has gone in a much different direction. “The Cheesecake Assassin” may not evoke fear in the opposition, but it certainly will catch more than a few eyes and ears along the way.
“It’s just from an old fight where I made weight and the other guy was running around in a sauna suit so I sent one of my friends to the shop for a cheesecake and ate it after the weigh ins just for a laugh,” Mitchell explained. “The nickname kind of stuck after that, but I do have a sweet tooth.”
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All Hail The Cheesecake Assassin
"I am managing my training a lot better and I feel like now is the perfect time to make a solid run in the UFC." - Danny Mitchell