Photo of Danny Castillo via TheWellVersed.com.
The Team Alpha Male fighter impressively went 3-1 in 2011, stepping up three times on short notice and bringing home the bacon each outing. The 32-year-old is always ready to fight. Just like the Boy Scouts, he's prepared to step up at any moment.
"Last Call" changed things up in preparation for his upcoming fight with John Cholish this Saturday night (May 5, 2012), training all around Las Vegas, Nevada, while his team of trainers worked on the new season of The Ultimate Fighter Live with his teammate Urijah Faber.
And he feels he's much better off for it.
Castillo will fight on the UFC on Fox 3 "Prelims" card in Cholish's back yard of East Rutherford, N.J., but he's never been more confident in himself. He spoke with MMAmania.com about his long term MMA goals, being away from his family for this training camp and his one unique pre-fight destination in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had one of the quietest 3-1 years in the UFC I've ever seen. Your 2011 was solid so how do you feel coming into 2012? You haven't got much recognition.
Danny Castillo: Yeah, I get that too. That's the farthest thing from my eyes as of late. It's been like that my whole career. I was pretty close to a title shot and you probably never even heard of me as a lightweight in the WEC and then now. I don't know man. I just try to listen to all the positives. I think a lot of people didn't take notice because I took a lot of fights on short notice. There wasn't a whole lot of media behind it. I fought two fights in the UFC in 50 days which is pretty much unheard of. It's good for me in a sense that my hard work is something I take recognition of. I'm not worried too much about what other people are thinking or understanding.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Well you have mentioned before that you've felt a little disrespected in terms of your talents and skills. There's a little bit of feeling there, right?
Danny Castillo: Yeah, definitely but I just try to focus on what's important. John Cholish is my next fight and getting to the top 10 in the lightweight division is something that's very important to me. After my last fight where I was booed, I'm just over that. Just worrying about what other people who don't find and don't train and people who have never been in fights in their life think, I've got better things to do.
I just worry about John Cholish. He's been on my mind for the past couple months and I'm not really worried about people taking note of me at all. When I knock John Cholish out, maybe then people will start talking about me and if they don't, whatever man. I get paid the same amount whether people know my name or not.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): About the last fight. It seemed a bit unfair with the boos. You took a fight on short notice and the fact that you were able to do that and go out and win on short notice, that takes a lot of guts and talent. Most fighters can't go out there and be ready for a fight like that.
Danny Castillo: Yeah, but this is all stuff that I've heard and I think about. At the end of the day, it's my job to be ready. Coming from Team Alpha Male and having a mentor like Urijah Faber, "Don't get ready, stay ready" is the motto at Team Alpha Male. It's my job to be ready for a fight and if it takes me three months to get prepared to fight some guy then I'm not a true professional. The fact of the matter is, if Anthony Njokuani stole something from me or punched me in the face on the street, I'd have to fight him then.
That's pretty much how I look at the fights. I'm ready to fight at all times and that's just basically what it comes down to. Being a professional means you're in shape all year round. With that, that brings some mental toughness to me and some confidence because I train year-round and I don't have an offseason. When I don't have a fight, I'm training my ass off even harder.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): About Anthony Njokuani, you actually went out and trained with him too. How did that end up working out? Did he reach out to you or did you reach out to him?
Danny Castillo: Actually, we're in Las Vegas (for The Ultimate Fighter) and he's from Las Vegas. Anthony Njokuani is a great guy and I think that what him and I have done and being able to train together is what fighting is all about. I don't necessarily have to hate someone to fight them. It's all business to me. It's nothing personal. Anthony Njokuani and I were friends in the WEC and it's just a fight. Win, lose or draw, had I lost that fight, we'd still be friends. I was able to help him with his fight getting ready for Makdessi and he beat him. I was able to do some training with him and help him.
Pretty much every guy I've fought in the past, I'm friends with. When you fight someone, there's some kind of bond that you share with them. I know it sounds weird to say, but you're alone in the cage for 15 minutes and you're fighting each other and to me, there's a bond that I share with each person inside that cage.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, I think we see that a lot of times. Even when there's bad blood before a fight, they let it all out and build a lot of mutual respect for each other.
Danny Castillo: Yeah, it's like, people say fighting doesn't solve anything, but to me, in some certain aspects, it does solve things. Even if like you said when people hate each other, when they fight, it's over with. A real man, win, lose, or draw can accept the outcome, can remain friends and not remain personal.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Shifting to your fight, you've been out in Vegas training with your team in Vegas because of The Ultimate Fighter. What's this whole experience been like, basically transitioning and moving your whole training camp out here? It's gotta be a little different.
Danny Castillo: It is but I'm enjoying it. Las Vegas is a Disneyland for fighters in my opinion. There's gyms and trainers on every corner. It's just awesome for me to get a chance. I've trained with some great, great fighters and trainers. I was able to train at Mayweather's boxing gym, I was able to train with Sergio Pena who's a phenomenal jiu-jitsu instructor. Also, i was over at Cobra Kai, One Kick Nick, man, there's just so many different trainers and gyms out there.
I think it helped me a lot because it took me away from my personal settings. I didn't have to worry about bills and everyday stressers that I have when I'm at home so I think it was good for me. Mentally, it was trying on my relationship with my girlfriend because I was away from her but in the back of my head, I was away from my family but I'll be a stronger fighter because of it because I made the sacrifices that I didn't get to see my friends. I didn't get to see my family and I'm doing this all for them.
I feel the fighters that are stagnant are the ones that start to lose. You see that a lot with UFC veterans. Fighters stay in camp and don't explore. In my opinion, MMA changes every four months and sometimes quicker than that. It's constantly changing and if you're not changing your training, you're gonna get passed up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You talked about working with Jeff Mayweather at his boxing gym. I know they do some of the best boxing work out there, but how much does that help you for MMA. Do they have a background with helping out MMA fighters in terms of footwork and the different types of styles you need to box in MMA without getting taken down?
Danny Castillo: It's different and I think that Jeff is one of the boxing trainers that are trying to make the transition into MMA. I don't necessarily think they've reached that sort of training. Jeff has been working with King Mo, he worked with Big Country and I was able to get in there and I brought T.J. Dillashaw in there with me. As far as footwork, it's very different and it's something that I had to work on a lot along with the boxing. My combinations were there but it doesn't seem like the footwork was there.
The cool thing about that is I have Master Thong, one of the best muay thai instructors in the game and a lot of his training is based off footwork so a mixture of the two has just kind of made me a unique style and I'm excited to show it off on May 5th. I have a feeling that if John Cholish is smart, his gameplan will be to dive at my legs. Sprawl and brawl is what I have planned for this fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're a very well-rounded fighter so do you feel that with your strong collegiate background in wrestling, do you feel like you'll be able to force Cholish to fight where he doesn't want to fight?
Danny Castillo: Yeah, that's the plan. That's definitely the plan. To be one of the top fighters in the lightweight division, you have to be able to fight everywhere. I feel like my jiu-jitsu has improved so much. I got a brown belt from Fabio Prado and it doesn't matter where the fight goes. I've always been worried about certain aspects in the fight game, but I'm at a point in my career where I'm not worried about John Cholish's stand-up game because I've fought some of the division's best stand-up fighters: Anthony Njokuani, Anthony Pettis and the list goes on and on. In jiu-jitsu, I've fought some really tough jiu-jitsu guys and I just feel that he has nothing left to offer that I haven't seen before in fighters who are way better than him.
I have four losses in my career and they're to current UFC fighters. I've had 12 fights in the big show and if you look at his record, there's only one guy that has a winning record that he's beat and there's just no one on his resume that's like me and no one that's tough that he's faced. It'll bring a lot of character in this fight and I want to see how he takes the pressure.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're more of a full-time training guy and he does a lot of finance work in the corporate world. Do you feel that gives you an advantage, being a full-time fighter?
Danny Castillo: Yeah, I think it goes both ways. For one, he may not be training as hard as I am. Sometimes I have a tendency to overtrain and I think that's why I do so well in short notice fights because I'm a work horse. If I have four months to prepare for a fight, sometimes when I get to a fight, I'm overtrained. My three wins in the UFC have been fights on short notice where I didn't have time to overtrain.
For this fight, I took it easy and my trainers and coaches have been taking a close eye and watching to make sure I'm not overtrained but mentally, in my head it gives me an advantage because if you don't train full time, you can't beat me. If you have an offseason, you can't beat me. i just train too hard to lose to a guy who trains part time. At the same time, I respect the guy so much. I think it's awesome he's able to make it at such an elite level and only train part time so I know he's really tough. I respect the guy a ton but I just don't think he has what it takes to beat me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You like to wear the sneakers and the head band, but do you have any other superstitions or pre-fight rituals that you go through?
Danny Castillo: I do have a pre-fight ritual and it's to go to the strip club before the fight. I'm 8-0 if I go to the strip club right before the weigh-ins. That's a fun superstition and a routine that I have so I plan to make it nine. My girlfriend's not too happy about it but she understands. I'm 8-0 when I go to the strip club before the fight so she doesn't mind too much. (laughs) As far as other rituals or superstitions, I try not to have that because superstitions are for those who are unprepared and not really confident. I don't have anything else.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I think I'll have to start that up, maybe go to the strip club before every fighter interview or something.
Danny Castillo: (laughs) Hey, you never know. You might start having the best interviews of your life.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you close your eyes and you're picturing victory against John Cholish, what do you visualize?
Danny Castillo: I visualize a right hand knockout.
Danny would like to thank his friends and family, his trainers, his team, Alpha Male and his supporters who have been there for him. You can follow him on Twitter @LastCall155.