UFC lightweight Danny Castillo (11-3) came into the Octagon with a 5-3 record in the WEC and went up against The Ultimate Fighter 2 winner and former lightweight title challenger Joe Stevenson. Although he’d fought on national television before the UFC-WEC merger, Castillo wanted to put on a strong performance, particularly with the UFC on Versus 3 bout streaming on facebook for fans around the world to watch.
Despite the heavy experience edge for Stevenson, Castillo controlled the action on the feet, and when the fight went to the mat, Castillo more than held his own, fending off Stevenson’s patented guillotine choke and other submission skills.
Castillo took a few minutes to speak with ProMMAnow.com about his UFC debut and when he hopes to return to action.
ProMMAnow.com: I know you felt like you would match up pretty well with Stevenson in the wrestling aspect, but he did manage to take you down a couple of times. Were you surprised by that?
Danny Castillo: No, because he has some pretty good tricks off the fence. He took Nate Diaz down off the cage a bunch of times like that. As a wrestler, I think I’m a way better wrestler, but in terms of MMA wrestling, he has a lot of tricks off the cage. I wasn’t really too surprised by it, but I was surprised I was able to get back up so easily.
ProMMAnow.com: During the exchanges on the feet, you caught him several times with your left hook. Did you think you’d have success with that punch or is that just how the fight ended up playing out?
Danny Castillo: I saw his fight with George Sotiropoulos and I noticed [Sotiropoulos] was able to land his right hand a lot and Joe carried his hands a little low. So the original plan was to stick him with the jab, stick him with the jab, go downstairs than back upstairs with the right hand. I wasn’t able to land the right hand, so my next punch was the left hook.
ProMMAnow.com: Before the fight you said you thought you would be the more dynamic striker and it certainly looked like it played out that way. Are you happy with how you did on the feet or do you think you could have done some things differently?
Danny Castillo: I was kind of thrown off that I was able to get in so easily off of the jab. So I feel like I could’ve opened up more instead of shooting in for all of those takedowns. Every time I got in close, I was looking to take him down. I wasn’t worried about his guillotine and wrestling’s my thing.
ProMMAnow.com: When you talked to Joe Rogan after the fight, you mentioned that you thought your win would help give former WEC guys like yourself a bit more respect. Rogan said he didn’t think people had disrespected the WEC lightweights, but I wanted to get your thoughts on that.
Danny Castillo: I’ve heard some other fighters and people in general in the media … say we won’t be able to contend with upper echelon fighters. I’ve seen people on forums saying the WEC lightweights won’t be able to do anything except maybe Anthony Pettis or Ben Henderson. It was nice to see Shane Roller get a win also. It shows that the WEC was a tough organization, even for the lightweights.
ProMMAnow.com: It looked like you had the fight won, but judges can come up with some pretty odd scoring. Were you nervous at all about the decision or did you feel pretty confident about it?
Danny Castillo: I actually felt pretty confident. But I was a little bit disappointed in myself that I wasn’t pressing too much to finish the fight. I usually don’t fight that way. I’m usually always trying to end the fight.
ProMMAnow.com: Do you think you were more cautious because it was your first time in the UFC and you wanted to get that first win out of the way?
Danny Castillo: Yeah, I think that had something to do with it. Before I was even fighting in MMA, I was watching [Stevenson] on [The Ultimate Fighter]. I think I gave him a little too much respect instead of just going all out and trying to stop the fight. I was fighting cautious and I don’t plan on fighting cautious again.
ProMMAnow.com: Prior to your last WEC fight against Will Kerr, you mentioned that you were working hard on submission defense. Obviously Stevenson has good chokes and a strong all-around grappling game. Do you feel more confident that you were able to go to the ground with him and not have too much trouble against him?
Danny Castillo: I just got my purple belt after the Will Kerr fight, so I’m starting to believe in my grappling a lot more. Before, I’d use my wrestling to set up my ground-and-pound. Now I feel like I can grapple with some of the best Jiu Jitsu guys.
I think that I did well for the most part, but I’m sure I’m going to start looking for submissions as my ground game elevates.
ProMMAnow.com: So you picked up a good win over a name UFC fighter. Do you have an idea of when you want to get back in there for your next fight?
Danny Castillo: I definitely want to get in there as soon as possible. I want to hopefully fight again by this summer.