World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran Danny Castillo (10-3) will go one-on-one with former number one lightweight contender and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 2 winner, Joe Stevenson (31-12), at UFC on Versus 3 on March 3 in Louisville, Kentucky.
It will mark Castillo's first appearance inside the Octagon, who made quite a name for himself under the WEC banner, amassing a solid record (5-3) with the promotion.
Castillo tells Pro MMA Radio that the losses to Roller and Pettis put him in a rough spot.
"It's a tough feeling," he said. "After the two fights it was probably a span of eight months. One of the things I like to do the most is to win and not only to win, but to spend money, too. I didn't win for almost a whole year straight. It was really rough for me. I was going through a tough time in my life, a little bit of depression. [My manager] had to call me and be like, ‘Sean Shelby and Reed Harris are on the verge of maybe cutting your contract.' I just couldn't believe it."
The good news is that with recent wins over Dustin Poirier and Will Kerr, Castillo lived to fight another day under the Zuffa umbrella, and will look continue his comeback to success on March 3.
After suffering the first knockout loss of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career to Pettis in March 2010, Castillo knew he had to raise the bar.
"Losing two fights and being on the verge of having my contract cut, I don't care who you are you're gonna second guess yourself," he said. "After the Pettis fight, I flew back home and I ran half a marathon. I was so motivated and I just wanted to get back in there."
Not only did his bout with Poirier put Castillo back in the win column, it also put money back in his wallet. "Last Call" told Larry Pepe what he likes to spend his green on.
"I didn't really grow up with money, so sneakers were one of the things that I really wanted as a kid, so now whenever I get paid I tend to spend a lot of money on sneakers."
Castillo most recently went toe-to-toe with submission specialist Will Kerr on the last WEC card, WEC 53: "Henderson vs. Pettis," which, according to Castillo, felt like being a part of the mixed martial arts history.
"It was awesome. There were nerves for this fight as well because it was pretty much a job interview with Dana White." he said. "Except this interview was hands-on in a cage with small gloves. I had a lot of pressure for this fight. I was just coming off a win."
While Castillo may have not been too familiar with Kerr, he knew he had strong opposition.
"I didn't really know too much about him," he said. "I know he got knocked out and I know that he beat a really good boxer Karen Darabedyan with an armbar. In the back of my mind, I've been submitted with an armbar by Donald Cerrone so that was in the back of my head. I was in a little bit of trouble. He went from a kneebar to a heel hook to an armbar. Some really slick jiu-jitsu that I've never been in that situation in a live fight ever. Training with my teammates and working with my jiu-jitsu coach Fabio Prado, I was able to stop those submissions and come away with a knockout."
An important aspect of Castillo's game is his wrestling. In fact, "Last Call" says he wouldn't be the man who he is today if it wasn't for wrestling.
"You gotta go with your strengths," he said. "Wrestling pretty much saved my life as a kid. Everyone that I grew up with as a kid in my neighborhood, I don't know what they're doing now but I remember they weren't doing anything positive."
On March 3, Castillo makes his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut when faces the former number one contender to the lightweight title, Joe "Daddy" Stevenson. Castillo says Stevenson's game isn't as diverse as other lightweights.
"He's a black belt and he's got that great guillotine. Not only that, but he has a great ankle lock as well. Other than that, he's pretty much a basic fighter. I just have to worry about his boxing and his takedowns. If all I have to worry about when I'm fighting a guy is their wrestling takedown abilities, I'm a happy man. I'll wrestle all day. He doesn't kick, he doesn't knee, he doesn't elbow. On occasion he does, but he doesn't do it phenomenal."
Castillo is so confident in his abilities that he believes he can finish Stevenson and make his UFC debut a successful one.
"This one is gonna end in the second round," he said. "I think I'm gonna stop him with some ground and pound. He's gonna be pressing to take the fight down to the ground. I'm gonna be able to stop all his takedowns, box him up a little bit and maybe look for my own takedowns. The plan is to be on top of him and to drop bombs on him."
Will Castillo's expectations of a successful UFC debut be realized? Tune in to UFC on Versus 3 on March 3 to find out.