Danny Downes isn't going to wait until the UFC calls him ... he's ready to fight now.
The former WEC (and now UFC) lightweight understands that with the addition of the WEC lightweight class as well as season 12 of The Ultimate Figher (TUF), the UFC lightweight division is a bit overloaded.
Fights aren't going to be as regular until it sorts itself out a bit, so he's going to take a fight in the headlining bout of his head coach Duke Roufus' promotion, the North American Fighting Championship this Friday.
"The division is so huge and there's big layoffs in between. I just wanted to get some work in between instead of waiting 6-8 months. The UFC was gracious to give me the opportunity to get an extra fight in on my own. There's a lot of guys in the division and I really wanted to avoid that long layoff so that's why I'm taking the fight on May 6th."
"Danny Boy" didn't even find out who he was fighting until just over a week before the headlining bout took place but he's not too concerned. In fact, he's very relaxed.
"His name is Tory Bogguess (pronounced 'bogus'). I almost wanted to see a birth certificate to prove that was his real name (laughs). I tried to do some digging around on him but all I could find were some fights he took like 2-3 years ago. You always wanted to know as much as you can before your fight but even if I'd known who my opponent was 4-5 months before, I would probably know just as much about him as I do now. There's not a lot of new info on him. I don' t have a CIA budget or anything. It's not gonna change my gameplan at all."
The lightweight who trains out of the rising Rufousport Gym in Milwaukee, Wisconsin made his WEC debut last June against Chris Horodecki, taking the fight on just five days notice while 23 pounds over the allotted weight. He still remembers when he got the phone call from his coach.
"I was at a sports bar next to the gym, it was 25 cent chicken wing day or something and Duke called me and said, 'What's your weight at?' and usually when you hear that question, that means he's got a fight planned out so I told him and he said 'How would you like to fight Chris Horodecki in the WEC?' and I was just like 'wait, what?!?!'"
"It surprised me but obviously when you get an opportunity like that, you don't want to turn it down. Taking that Horodecki fight was one of the most miserable experiences of my life in the week leading up to it. I found on Tuesday night that I was supposed to fight on Sunday and I was at 178-179 pounds and I had to make weight by Saturday. That weight cut was a miserable, terrible experience and I hope I never, ever have to repeat it. Like I said though, it was either genius or stupid but it's worked out and it got me into the WEC. Even though I lost that fight I got another one against Zhang and I won that so I'm in a much better situation now than if I hadn't taken that fight."
On the topic of Zhang Tie Quan, Downes was then matched up with the Chinese superstar in what was the final World Extreme Cagefighting event ever, WEC 53. He wasn't expected to defeat "The Mongolian Wolf" but Downes believes that Zuffa got a bad first impression with the Horodecki fight. He proved them wrong with a fantastic performance in the WEC cage.
"The first round was really rough. He just put it on me at the beginning, we moved around, traded jabs and he got the takedown and for a while, I was just defending myself, fighting off submission the whole time. When he originally got me down I was just thinking 'oh no, not again!' I'd been able to excuse the first WEC fight due to the short notice and the weight cut but I'd had a full training camp for this fight and I was in the best shape of my life. After the first thirty seconds, I was just thinking 'I'm gonna have to get another job' but then I reversed him and I felt in that brief few seconds at the end of the first round when I was on top of him just 'oh wow, I've got him.' I could tell he was tired at the end of the first round, he'd blown his gas trying to finish me and in the second and third round, I just put him on his back and beat him up. I ended up cranking out the decision."
The UFC has big plans for an expansion into China and Zhang appeared to be a major player in those plans. Downes isn't concerned one bit about giving them a setback by handing "The Mongolian Wolf'" his first career loss.
"People were saying leading up to the fight that (the UFC wanted Zhang to win) but at the same time, the UFC can make a superstar out of anyone. They're gonna be big no matter what. They don't need any one individual. Having Zhang may help them in Asia but it's not like he's the only Chinese fighter that's alive. There's thousands if not hundreds of thousands or millions of people that want to be where he's at. That's why I took the Horodecki fight. I couldn't have just said 'nah, get back to me later' I just don't have that kind of pull. If I didn't take that fight, they could have found hundreds if not thousands of other people would gladly take the opportunity they were offering me. Even if they wanted him to win, they'll recover. It's not like I sent back their Asian expansion plans a decade. The business isn't that fragile (laughs)."
As stated earlier, "Danny Boy" trains at one of the most prestigious MMA gyms in America. Day in and day out, he's competing against some of the most creative fighters in the UFC. The young lightweight believes the fighters are constantly trying to "one-up" each other.
"There's definitely a feeling of friendly rivalry. I remember even way back when Anthony and I were fighting on the local Wisconsin show, I knocked my guy out in 1:09 of the first round and I was like 'Ha! beat that!' and he went out and knocked his guy out in exactly one minute of the first round. There's a rivalry with things like that. I think people have the impression that we're sitting here in the back room just watching old kung fu movies and coming up with stuff. With Anthony, it just comes naturally to him. He doesn't force it. We'll be sparring and he'll say "let me try something" and I'll say 'why the hell did you do that?' and he'll just go 'I don't know' A lot of guys on our team get big bonuses and we're always trying to put it on the other guy."
"Fighting is an individual sport but there's still a team aspect. If I just hit a heavy bag all day without sparring, I'd never know how good of a fighter I can be. When you're getting challenged, it definitely helps you. You can apply it to any sport. Those guys push me and you always want to get better. If you lose a round to Belcher or Pettis, I take it seriously and I want to improve myself. I know my opponents didn't have to go through what I did. If I can hang with the guys we have on our team, I don't see what anyone else can do to me that will surprise me. It definitely gives you confidence and security and you know you're not out of your league."
If things go well for him on Friday night, Downes will be ready whenever the UFC needs him, even if it has to be short notice again.
"I learned from the Horodecki fight to just stay in shape year round. Hypothetically, If I go in there and solo-punch my guy in the first round, I'd be ready to fight again short notice in a couple weeks if the UFC really needed me. I know I can handle just about everything else and I am just going to keep myself ready to go."
Danny would like to thank a couple of his sponsors:
"Thanks to Form Athletics, Better Life Farms and everyone give me a shoutout on twitter @DannyBoyDownes."