"This fight is so important for so many reasons that the passion is gonna be there for both of us, and for me it’s gonna come down to who wants it more, and I absolutely know, one hundred percent, that I want it more."
After nearly a decade in the fight game, it’s safe to say that Mac Danzig has had his share of disappointments – whether it was a prolonged stay on the local circuit, injuries, or some crushing defeats.
But nothing hit him as hard as his June loss to Matt Wiman, one filled with controversy due to the fact that referee Yves Lavigne called the bout thinking that Danzig had been rendered unconscious by a guillotine choke. But that wasn’t the case. And while Danzig’s defeats against Josh Neer, Jim Miller, and Clay Guida came in the midst of two or three round battles, this one was over before it started.
“I think the situation that happened in the Wiman fight was a lot worse, simply because the fight never really got a chance to happen,” said Danzig. “If you make mistakes during the course of a fight or don’t fight up to your potential, that’s one thing, but being in a situation where the fight is just taken away from you, that’s a lot harder to deal with, especially that early on. The Wiman fight and those circumstances were pretty bad.”
Yet as soon as the immediate shock wore off, Danzig was gracious in the Octagon as he spoke to color commentator Joe Rogan, saying “Yves Lavigne and all referees have a really tough job. I was feeling the choke, but I wasn’t out and I wasn’t about to tap. I hope we can do this again.”
The walk back to the locker room was a long one, as he pondered the idea that he had now lost four out of his last five fights. There was his family to think of, as well as his career. But by the time he got settled and cut the wraps off his hands, he got a welcome reprieve and a new lease on that career.
“Right afterwards (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva came to me in the back and said ‘we’ll set up a rematch if you want it as soon as we can,’ and that really made me happy because I was able to train and start preparing for a rematch. Unfortunately, I got hurt and that sucked and I guess Matt got hurt as well, but when I knew I had a rematch coming, my momentum got right back on track.”
The rematch with Wiman hasn’t happened yet due to injury, but this Saturday night, Danzig has more pressing business to deal with, as he steps into the Octagon at Montreal’s Bell Centre to face fellow veteran Joe Stevenson. The 30-year old Ohio native is under no illusions as to what’s at stake in the UFC 124 bout for both fighters.
“I watched his ups and downs and I think he’s dealt with some of the same things I have in my career,” said Danzig of Stevenson, who has dropped three of his last five. “He’s had a lot of fights, just like me, and he’s won a lot, lost some, and the one thing about him that I think is very similar to me is that we fought a lot of tough opponents. If you look at either of us, and our losses, it’s never been to some Joe Schmoe guy. Anytime we’ve had a loss, it’s been to a real high quality, worthy opponent. And I think that both of us are at a similar point in our careers where it’s do or die right now. And I’m here to do.”
If Danzig is being weighed down by the pressure of the situation, he’s not showing it. On the contrary, he sounds relaxed, yet confident, before what may be the biggest fight of his career. It’s not maturity, as Danzig has always possessed that trait, but a realization that the only thing pressure does is hinder his own performance. That wasn’t always the case, and he’s felt the heat of having to perform at all costs before. But now, three years after winning the Ultimate Fighter season six title, he appears to have figured things out.
“I’ve learned a lot about fighting, about the business of fighting, and about myself,” he said. “I went through a rough patch where I just put a whole lot of pressure on myself and it screwed up my performance and it screwed up the way I felt about the sport. I think I learned that that type of attitude and outlook on the sport that I love was a really bad thing for me to have. You only get one life and one career, and I’m here to make it right again. That’s what this fight means to me and what this opportunity is for me. It’s to do things the way they should be done, and that’s to go in there with all the passion and love that I have for the sport and do my job the way it’s supposed to be done. Win or lose, no matter what, I want to do it right, and I wasn’t doing it right before. I was training really hard and my heart was in it, but the outlook wasn’t right the whole time – it was just worry and pressure. I’m over all that and I’m ready to do my job the way it’s supposed to be done.”
Mixing his camp up with a couple weeks of training with buddy Gray Maynard and company at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and the rest in his current home of Los Angeles has given Danzig the mix he needs. He gets his intense work in four hours down the highway in Vegas, and is then able to return home to be with his girlfriend and his daughter. It’s the pace of life he needs at this point, not only physically in the gym, but mentally outside of it.
“Having the environment you want to live in surrounding you is really, really important, and me being in California is very important to me just for my overall sanity,” he laughs. “It was a good move for me. I’m around all the people I care about, and I’m in an environment that’s really cohesive to my lifestyle. It’s a lot better than sacrificing everything just to live in Vegas.”
And being away from Vegas full-time allows him to smell the flowers a bit, or in his case, take photos of them, as Danzig is an accomplished photographer when he’s not in training for a fight, and when he’s in the great outdoors with his camera, he finds a peace far removed from the gym and the Octagon.
“It’s something I learned that I have to separate,” he said, “but it’s a really important balance that I need. Every since I’ve been really young I’ve always been really interested in nature and very remote places and getting into the essence of nature. There’s not too many places like that left, even in North America, so the places that are left are like sanctuaries to me. I like spending a lot of time out there in the Wilderness in places that few people ever trek to and finding that balance and being able to do that is so therapeutic to me and so important.”
When he talks about photography, a few words stand out – technical, foresight, patience, know-how. He could very well be talking about a fight, and he agrees that some of the aspects of taking photos can be applied to his day job.
“Patience goes a long way,” said Danzig. “Not just in an actual fight or in learning and training, but in your career in general. You can’t try to rush things; you’ve got to wait for the right moment and when the right moment is there you’ve got to be able to use it.”
He chuckles and goes back to photography for a second.
“It’s not as easy as having a good camera.”
And on the elite level of fighting, it’s not as easy as having technical know-how, athletic gifts, and the right training camp. You have to be able to put it all together, have the experience to know what to do at what time, and throw in the intangibles that only show up when the stakes are at their highest. Both Danzig and Stevenson know what it’s like to fight at that level, and with the stakes higher than ever, fight fans should be in for a treat this weekend.
“I think the main difference you’ll see is a well-rounded game as far as skills go, and not just that, but a well-rounded game in the fight,” said Danzig. “And this fight is so important for so many reasons that the passion is gonna be there for both of us, and for me it’s gonna come down to who wants it more, and I absolutely know, one hundred percent, that I want it more. And that doesn’t guarantee me a win, but it puts me in a really good position in this fight when the going gets tough, and I know it’s gonna get tough.”
Free Prelims on UFC.com/Live
For the first time ever, two preliminary bouts will be aired live and free online at http://www.ufc.com/live.
The Dustin Hazelett vs Mark Bocek and Dan Miller vs Joe Doerksen fights
will be available to everyone worldwide at no charge starting at 9pm
ET/ 6pm PT/ 2am GMT.