“I’m gonna go in there with everything I’ve got. It’s not even about him (Wiman) or what he’s gonna do anymore. It’s more about me being at the top of my game on fight night." - Mac Danzig
It took nearly 31 years (a lot quicker than most), but Mac Danzig finally got it. Of course it took some shots, literally and figuratively, to get to the point where he was able to let things go and focus on the present and not the past, but you could say this revelation was perfect timing, considering it took place between a devastating loss and a stirring victory.
“You always know that what happened in the past is the past, and there’s nothing you can do,” said Danzig. “But when I was younger I would always dwell on things and try to overthink everything to the point where I’m hoping I could fix something that happened in the past, and you just get older in life experience and realize that things suck and bad things happen sometimes and you just gotta move on.”
Danzig, victim of one of the worst calls in recent history when his 2010 bout with Matt Wiman was called off by referee Yves Lavigne via submission even though the Ohio native was still conscious and hadn’t tapped, could have fallen into a deep funk over the defeat that would carry into his UFC 124 bout with Joe Stevenson. But he didn’t let it happen. Positive encouragement from the UFC over the questionable nature of the end of the Wiman helped, and as he approached his battle with “Joe Daddy,” Danzig was thinking of making statements, not about his job security.
“When I fought Stevenson, I was like ‘all right, this is it. I gotta go. This guy’s an awesome fighter, he’s got more experience than me, which is rare, and he’s good and he’s got a good name. I’ve got nothing to lose. I just gotta go in there and believe in myself and do it.’ And I did.”
Did he ever. The steel-chinned Stevenson had not been knocked out in over 11 years, but Danzig turned the trick with a single left hook that earned him a Knockout of the Night bonus and a new lease on his career in the Octagon. Nearly a year later you can still hear the excitement in his voice as he explains the finishing sequence.
“The whole thing about the knockout is when you try to force it and try to make it happen by will, it often doesn’t come, and that was always my problem,” said Danzig. “I was always trying to force a knockout to happen and it wasn’t happening. You have to let everything fall into place, and there’s a time and a place where everything is exactly right. You see your opening and you don’t tense up and muscle the shot – you just let it fly with speed and you snap it. I hit him with that left hook three times before that, just little pop shots, in the first minute of the fight. I hit him in the forehead a couple times, but it just wasn’t the right one. I knew I could land it, so when he opened up big like that, I saw it and I got him right on the chin, where I was supposed to. It’s a great feeling and it’s such a relief to get the fight done and over with like that and not have to grind with such a tough wrestler.”
If Danzig knows one thing from his almost four years of competition in the UFC, it’s the tough grind. Going three rounds with Mark Bocek, Clay Guida, Jim Miller, and Justin Buchholz, and nearly two in a 2009 war with Josh Neer, the Ultimate Fighter season six winner has gotten no cupcakes in his time here, and certainly no easy fights once the bell rang. It made the ending to the Wiman bout even more bizarre, because fight fans around the world expected a 15 minute scrap from the two 155-pounders, not an abbreviated and controversial ending. Luckily, he’ll get to do it again with Wiman this weekend in Washington, D.C., and whatever the outcome, he just wants to make sure he gets the opportunity to perform.
“Obviously I’m not satisfied with anything but a win, and I don’t think any fighter should be, but that being said, I’m happy to have a chance to do it right, the way it’s supposed to be done,” said Danzig. “If he’s like some amazing submission fighter and he’s good enough to beat me, then so be it, but let it be in a fair fight where I get a chance to do what I trained all these weeks to do. I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity to fight this guy the way it was supposed to be the first time. I feel like I’ve improved since then, and I feel like he’s improved since then as well. I feel like he’s a very confident fighter right now, but I think that’s going to play into my hands.”
About the only negative for Danzig heading into the rematch is the fact that this is his first fight of 2011, a product of a crowded 155-pound schedule and an injury that forced him from a June bout with Donald Cerrone. He’s not a fan of the waiting game.
“It’s been pretty bad,” he admits. “I wanted to go as soon as February, or even late January, and I was ready to go, but with the influx of all the WEC fighters that came in at 155, it made it really hard for the matchmakers to get everything together because that weight class is really saturated. So I had to wait for a while, and once I got a fight lined up for June, I was happy about it, and then three and a half, four weeks out from the fight, I got hurt. It’s been 10 months now, and it’s been pretty frustrating, but I’m ready to go.”
He’s also excited about the prospect of throwing hands with the occupants of a stacked weight class that has gotten even more talent-rich since the last time he competed.
“I just look at the entire UFC roster from top to bottom in all the weight classes and I say it’s a good time to be in the UFC. There are so many good matchups to be made, especially with the lightweights. There are so many good guys and exciting fights.”
And in spite of just a .500 record in the Octagon (4-4), Danzig may very well be hitting his peak physically. Add in a mental game that has caught up to his talents, and it could make things very interesting for the California resident in the coming year. Again, he credits the wisdom that comes with getting older.
“I’ve gotten older, and I’m confident in myself and my abilities,” he said. “I wasn’t so sure before. I know I’m tough and I know I’ve been doing it for a long time, but I struggled with self-doubt for a long time. Now, it’s like ‘all right Mac, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re good enough; you know you’re good enough, you just have to show it.’ That’s the whole thing. Instead of being like ‘man, I know I’m good, I think I can beat these guys,’ I know I can, it’s whether or not you perform in the fight. A lot of people only perform in the gym. I’ve not necessarily been a guy like that. I’ve been someone who’s performed well in the gym and well in the fights, but there hasn’t been a huge discrepancy. And now, I’m just starting to realize that I’m good at this, so have some confidence. And I do, and I know I’m good enough to have a really good run in this division and good enough to completely turn everything around and get an awesome winning streak going. It’s just believing in yourself. When you have to skills to back up the belief, then the sky’s the limit.”
Cardio – check.
Technique – check.
Gameplan – check.
Everything else – finally, check.
Mac Danzig’s ready to make a statement.
“I’m gonna go in there with everything I’ve got,” he said. “It’s not even about him (Wiman) or what he’s gonna do anymore. It’s more about me being at the top of my game on fight night and having all the elements and all the training I’ve put together for the past nine weeks or so come together and have a peak performance. That’s what it’s about and I feel like if I fight my very best, I’ll be able to beat anybody, regardless of if it’s Matt Wiman or Frankie Edgar or a guy who’s 0-3. Whoever it is, I should be able to put on a great performance against them because I will have reached the peak of my potential on fight night. And that’s what it’s about for me, more than anything.”