"The only people who really know how good I am are the people that have
to fight me because I’m a tough guy to match up with; I just don’t have a
big name." - Danny Castillo
Mixed martial arts is a sport where being adept in a variety of areas is required to find success. No matter how talented a fighter is in one particular aspect, they must also show an above average level of capability in the other facets of the game if they hope to be successful. This means countless hours in the gym are spent sharpening skills and adding to an arsenal all in the grand hope that the development will come at the right place and time for victory to be achieved.
Nevertheless, not every element of the battle can be crafted inside the gym, and even if it were, executing under the bright lights of the sport’s biggest stage is a task unto itself. This unpredictable environment makes consistency the rarest of commodities and Danny Castillo is a proud card carrying member of that particular club.
Since joining the WEC in 2008, the Team Alpha Male staple has enjoyed success at a high percentage. There have certainly been setbacks through his nearly six-year journey, but aside from the occasional misstep, “Last Call” has racked up a handful of solid winning streaks. During his run under the Zuffa banner the 34-year-old has enjoyed three separate stretches where’s he’s collected three or more victories in consecutive fashion.
Where that level of success typically produces a higher profile and some accolades along the way, Castillo, for the most part, has been running under the radar. That is fine by him, because he believes he’ll get where he’s going regardless of fanfare or praise. He just needs to keep his skills in constant evolution and stick with the strengths that have helped him consistently land in the win column.
“I’ve put in a lot of work to become a complete mixed martial artist,” Castillo said. “I can go with some of the best jiu-jitsu guys. I can and have gone with some of the best standup guys out there. I’m a wrestler who has added other strengths to my skill set, but I’m not going to fall into the trap that some of the best wrestlers have where they abandon their wrestling and become strikers. I may not get a ton of fans, but I know what works for me and I’m going to continue to do that.
“Every fight might not be the most exciting, but I’m winning and I’m not going to change that. Duane Ludwig has helped me implement striking in addition to what I do best and now my striking is a compliment to my wrestling. I don’t seem to get enough credit for my style of fighting and I’m not sure why that is exactly. I’ve beaten some solid names and I don’t get the credit I feel I deserve. But that’s fine with me because I’m kind of like the dark horse of the division. The only people who really know how good I am are the people that have to fight me because I’m a tough guy to match up with; I just don’t have a big name.”
Knocking on the Door
While his losses along the way have kept him from breaking through into the top tier of the lightweight division, his current run in 2013 certainly has him sitting on the doorstep. The Sacramento-based fighter has picked up two solid wins this year as he’s defeated British submission artist Paul Sass and the ever-scrappy Tim Means. Those wins put him in a position to draw a high profile opponent in his next outing and that is exactly what the promotion delivered in Edson Barboza.
The Californian will square off with the highly touted Brazilian striker when the Octagon rolls through Sacramento this Saturday night at UFC on FOX 9. In addition to Castillo looking to derail the surging prospect, he will also be looking to end 2013 on a high note. With that in mind, he will be fighting on the card with three of his Alpha Male teammates, and that creates the perfect setting to what he believes will be a great night in his hometown.
“It’s awesome and it definitely has a different feeling when it’s a team thing,” Castillo said. “It is kind of like when you are back in high school and you have a couple of buddies fighting with you. That makes you more amped up for it and that is how it has been leading up to this fight. I know I’m going to fight and my buddies are going to be there with me in fights of their own. It’s a great feeling and the intensity has been so high in the room during training camp. I have a very big fight for myself, but I’m not a selfish person, and this is a huge fight for Joseph [Benavidez]. Joe winning that belt is huge for our team and our gym. [Urijah] Faber and Chad [Mendes] both have huge fights coming up where a win could definitely get them title shots. > Watch: Team Alpha Male's Secret Weapon
“I think we are the best team in the world now, but we get a couple of belts in there, then it’s guaranteed we are the best. My team is always in the gym. We stay in shape and we are always there to help one another out. This camp has been crazy because we have four guys on this card and all four of us are working like crazy to push one another to new levels. The crazy thing about it is that there aren’t any imports on our team. We all came up together and helped one another improve. Now we are on the verge of doing some big things and it’s great for the entire team. It’s a cool experience and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.”
When Castillo steps into the Octagon this Saturday night he will face a unique task in Barboza. The Renzo Grace Team fighter has been “lightning in a bottle” thus far in the UFC and has been nearly flawless thus far in his performances inside the Octagon. The 27-year-old is touted as one of the division’s best strikers as he’s made highlight-reel material out of a handful of challenges he’s faced on the sport’s biggest stage.
That said, his time in the UFC hasn’t been entirely perfect, as he suffered a stunning upset at the hands of former WEC champion Jamie Varner at UFC 146 in 2012. Where past opponents had shown Barboza a tremendous amount of respect and space, the Arizona native brought relentless pressure and earned a first-round stoppage victory over the prospect. Castillo believes his skill set holds many of the same weapons Varner brought to the table and he will be looking to impose his will from the opening bell.
“Styles make fights and this is going to be an interesting one,” Castillo said. “If you look at the only guy who has given him trouble in Jamie Varner, I feel like I bring a lot of similar things to the table. My boxing is solid and my wrestling is very good. That being said, I think I’m a better jiu-jitsu player than Varner is. Stylistically speaking, I think this fight is very similar to his bout against Jamie Varner. When I first heard about this fight my initial thought was that Barboza is really dangerous. But after watching his fights, and having Coach Ludwig there to point out what I need to do to win, I have a lot of confidence going into this fight. I have to stay in his face, dictate the pace and fight my fight.
“There are a few sick puppies out there who like to get hit in the face but I don’t think either of us are in that category. It doesn’t seem like he enjoys getting hit in the face anymore than I do, but I need to make him feel my power in this fight. I need to put some leather on him and make him worried about my punches and that will open up other avenues of my attack. Once I get him worried about that it will take his mind off dropping spinning kicks or those leg kicks on me.”