Following a 5-3 stint with the WEC, Danny Castillo (10-3) is set to make his UFC debut against former lightweight title challenger Joe Stevenson (31-12) at UFC on Versus 3 on March 3 in Louisville, Ky., and he couldn’t be happier about the opportunity.
Castillo took the fight on about four weeks notice but jumped at the chance to face a name fighter like Stevenson. If he comes away with the win, Castillo will likely get a little extra credibility with the fans for defeating a man that’s faced some of the best 155-pound fighters in the UFC and won season two of The Ultimate Fighter.
“I feel like this fight’s a win-win situation for me,” Castillo told ProMMAnow.com. “Even worst case scenario, it’s still going to be a win for me, because I’m wearing those black UFC gloves and getting in there and showcasing what I have to offer. I can’t go wrong.”
You might expect Castillo to feel a little more pressure this time. Since the UFC-WEC merger, the lightweight class has ballooned in size, making each fight that much more important to not only move up the ranks, but to simply keep a spot in the UFC.
However, Castillo always goes into the cage looking to put on a show.
“I’ve only been the distance twice in 13 fights,” he said. “I like to finish fights and keep it exciting.”
Castillo added, “I think that my last WEC fight was an interview for my new job and for my boss Dana White. On the first day on the job you want to do the best you can, and that’s what I’m going to go in there and do.”
Training with Team Alpha Male, a camp that includes bantamweight contenders Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez and featherweight standout Chad Mendes, Castillo also isn’t concerned about taking the fight on short notice.
“For our team, generally everyone stays within 15 pounds of their fight weight all the time,” Castillo said. “We have so many guys in the big show that we need each other to help get ready for fights. So people are in the gym all the time.”
Speaking of which, Mendes, who is fresh off of an impressive win over Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 126 on Feb. 5, plans to be back in the gym on Monday to spar with Castillo. And he intends to take full advantage of having his teammate back in camp, knowing that Mendes’s wrestling will help Castillo prepare for Stevenson’s style.
“Chad’s only taking two weeks off and he’s going to be back in the gym on Monday to help me with some sparring and use his wrestling,” he said. “I know for a fact Joe’s going to try to take me down right off the bat.”
Stevenson and Castillo both possess solid wrestling credentials, and Stevenson also has developed a solid boxing game over the years. But Castillo believes Stevenson will want to rely on his grappling skills rather than standing and trading.
“His last two fights are the fights I’ve been watching the most,” Castillo said, referencing Stevenson’s losses to George Sotiropoulos and Mac Danzig. Sotiropoulos bested Stevenson on the judges’ scorecards and Danzig came away with a first round knockout victory.
“He did his best to try and get the fight to the ground. Being that he was knocked out in his last fight, I don’t think he’ll stand with me.
“But if he stands with me, I think I have the advantage. I’m a lot faster and a lot stronger.
I honestly believe that he’s just a straight forward boxer and I’m more of a dynamic striker.”
If Castillo is right, the outcome could come down to the wrestling aspect and who can dictate where the fight goes, and Castillo is confident he has the advantage there as well.
“I’m a better wrestler than he is [and have] more power,” Castillo said. “If I can land a couple shots, it’s going to change the whole fight.”
With the fight coming together on short notice, conditioning could be a factor. The longer the fight goes, the more confident Castillo is that he will be the fresher of the two combatants.
“It’s not like a secret that after fights he blows up to 190 pounds,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a factor. If we do go to the later rounds, I think I’m going to be able to out-condition him.”
While there’s no doubt that Castillo is confident, he isn’t taking Stevenson lightly at all. Obviously Stevenson brings plenty of skill and experience to the table, but on top of that, he’ll be hungrier than ever for a win against Castillo.
Although Stevenson has the TUF 2 crown on his resume and he fought B.J. Penn at UFC 80 for the lightweight title, his UFC record has dropped to 8-6 after losing four of his last six fights. There was some speculation whether Stevenson might get cut after the Danzig loss, so Castillo knows that Stevenson is in a must-win situation, making him all the more dangerous.
“I think that his last loss might’ve put a fire underneath him,” Castillo said. “Being that it was two losses in a row, it’s gotta be in the back of his mind. I don’t care who you are, TUF champion or not, you lose three in a row, that’s bad business in a very competitive weight class.”
He added, “I’m preparing for the best Joe Stevenson. He’s going to be fighting like his job is on the line.”
Castillo asked to send along special thanks to Team Alpha Male, Form Athletics, and NTS strength and conditioning. You can check out his website at www.dannycastillo.net.