Bellator 184: “Dantas vs. Caldwell” goes down at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., this Friday night (Oct. 6, 2017), featuring a Spike TV-televised Bantamweight main event between division champion Eduardo Dantas (20-4) against “The Wolf” Darrion Caldwell (10-1).
Former two-time Featherweight champion Daniel Straus (25-7) knows a lot about being in that position. Having defeated studs like Pat Curran and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire to claim the 145-pound crown, his biggest Kryptonite to date has been having rematches with the said same. In fact, his last fight with Freire was the fourth time the two had met.
Having gone 1-3 in those four fights, Straus needs something extra special to put himself into yet another match with “Pitbull.” That opportunity starts with “El Matador” Emmanuel Sanchez (15-3), winner of five out of his last six, including former champion Marcos Galvao last time out.
Normally, that’s where an interview like this would start, but Hurricane Irma disrupted many lives from the end of August to the middle of September. And Straus was no exception.
“A hurricane is a hurricane, man. It did what it did. Took the time off. It took a couple of weeks from us (training). Me, personally, I was out of power. I stayed in my house. We didn’t go to a hotel, we didn’t go to a friend’s house. We held the fort down. I stayed in my house for about 12 days with no power, no nothing. No food, no nothing. So it definitely affected my camp. It’s definitely put me at a mindset that’s not comfortable for whoever I’m fighting.”
And like so many other MMA veterans from South Florida, Straus was not going to give up everything he worked so hard for without a literal fight — Irma be damned.
“Back in ‘99 (in Ohio) I had a tornado rip our roof off. Slept through it, didn’t really give a fuck, and it was kind of the same thing here. You know we didn’t have too much damage to the house or anything. You know it hit and they was like, ‘You need to get out!’ Well, fuck it! If I need to get out, God’ll tell me I need to get out. The water’ll be nipple high and that’s when it’s time to get the fuck out. I was just gonna ride it out. Me and my girl we rode it out. She knew how pent up I was, but we’re blessed man. Everybody’s safe, nobody’s hurt, we didn’t lose anybody.”
The same day I spoke to Straus the tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting unfolded, once again taking the hearts and minds of the fight community far away from the entertaining distraction of combat sports.
“Unless we’re inside the cage nobody wants to see nobody hurt. It’s human nature, we all give a fuck, and even after that person’s hurt inside (the cage) we want to see him get up. You see everybody clap hands and stuff like that. All these things that’s going on in nature and in society man like it’s a shame. We want to see everybody prosper. We want to see everybody do well. We don’t want to see all this nonsense that’s going on.”
It’s not an issue far from Straus’ heart. Gun violence has hurt him and the people closest to him in an immediate way that he was unable to talk about before his last fight with Freire.
“I haven’t told a lot of people this, and a lot of people don’t know this, my last two fights with Patricio my buddy was there. Shortly after that (third fight) he was shot and killed by another friend so going into my next fight with Patricio was really heartbreaking for me. There was a lot on my mind. The Las Vegas shooting, it really fucks with me. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. Unless we’re doing this shit for a sport it’s not necessary.”
As difficult as it was to hear that Straus was hurting, I had to ask him if there was any correlation between the trauma he experienced and his performance in the fourth “Pitbull” fight.
“Not one to one. I lost that fight because I wasn’t the better fighter and I’ll always put that on me. Was there things that were going on that could have made me not be the better fighter? Of course. But, I lost that fight because I wasn’t the better fighter — period. You know I’ve fought other fights with things going on and still won, so I can’t sit here and say I lost it because of this or I lost it because of that. No, I lost it because I wasn’t focused or I wasn’t in tune with everything. That’s my fault, my responsibility.”
The fight with Sanchez this weekend takes on a whole new meaning now. It’s not just a fight to get back into contention, but a fight to show that Straus has regained his focus.
“Everybody coming into a fight thinks they have my number. I’ve heard that plenty of times. The thing that I always say is, ‘You have to see me.’ You’re gonna have to physically step into that fucking cage and see me. You can think whatever number you’ve got. You think you can beat me at any point. You can think you have the better coaching, better coaching staff, better teammates -- and you might be true! The only problem is that on October 6 at a certain time you have to walk into that place with NONE OF THEM and see me.”
Even though Sanchez might have a reach advantage (71” vs. 67”), Straus is not afraid of giving up the length to any opponent named “El Matador” or otherwise.
“The reach advantage doesn’t mean much to me, especially if I’m on the inside, especially if I move faster than him. He has to tag me. I just need to play my part, I need to do my game, I need to fight my fight and not worry about him. If I’m worried about him then of course he’s going to win and get shit done. I don’t worry about any of that.”
If Straus can survive the tragedies of gun violence and natural disasters and come out stronger on the other side, there’s nothing Sanchez can say or do to phase him at all.
“I’m not worried about him being hungry. I’m not mad about him feeling like he’s better or whatever — he should! Cause I don’t wanna fight no guy that’s like, ‘Aww man I know he’s that dude’ or ‘Aww man I know he’s better than me’ — I don’t wanna fight that guy. I wanna fight that guy that thinks he’s gonna knock my chin off. I’m so glad that all his family, friends and everybody else is gonna be there supporting him, because this is just the start of my career all over again.”
Daniel Straus is coming to Oklahoma this Friday night to start his career all over again at the expense of Emmanuel Sanchez. So don’t miss Bellator 184 at WinStar World Casino and Resort or on Spike TV.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Dantas vs. Caldwell” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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