by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
Coming into season six of The Ultimate Fighter, Mac Danzig was believed to be one of the most well rounded and respected guys out of any season. An early favorite to win, he showed the versatility which would be essential for a fighter exiting TUF and transitioning into the big show that is the UFC.
Submitting runner-up Tommy Speer en route to a six-figure contract with the 800-pound gorilla organization would mark his fourth submission victory in a row, including his three exhibition bouts during his time in the house. His exhibition wins included Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Joe Scarolla via triangle choke and the always tough John Kolosci twice by rear naked choke, none making it out of the first round.
The self-proclaimed vegan was successful in his first bout outside of the TUF banner. On his pay-per-view debut at UFC 83 “St. Pierre vs. Serra II,” Danzig submitted Mark Bocek in the third round in front of his fellow Canadians after softening him up with superior stand-up, using effective knees and boxing from the outside, changing levels and sticking his jab.
Though many were optimistic of Danzig’s potential as a true lightweight contender, he has been on a stroll down ‘bad luck lane,’ unsuccessful in his last two outings, outwrestled by the enigmatic Clay Guida and than submitted by Miletich product Josh Neer.
There is no such thing as an easy fight in the UFC.
In familiar territory, Danzig has been here before. His entrance into The Ultimate Fighter house came on the heels of two consecutive losses; a decision loss to Clay French losing his King of the Cage lightweight title, and in his next fight, a knockout loss to Japanese star Hayato Sakurai for the now defunct Pride organization.
The pressures of losing always looming over a fighters head is difficult in itself, but the Pittsburgh native is faced with a whole new pressure. Most would say being the winner of any season of The Ultimate Fighter is almost like walking around with a bulls-eye on your back and coupled with facing the adversity of new challenges awaiting him, Danzig is using this fight as motivation in ways unimaginable.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself leading up to that Neer fight and fighters are superstitious. I try not to be too superstitious, but I can’t help it sometimes, it’s the nature of the beast. Looking back at it, maybe I shouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself. Going into this one, let’s face it, it’s do or die for me.
“I don’t want to lose my job with the UFC.”
The newly minted father of a seven-month old baby girl will look to take on another difficult challenge in opponent Jim Miller, who is coming off of a loss of his own to Gray Maynard, another prized lightweight prospect and training partner to Danzig out of the famed Xtreme Couture camp in Las Vegas.
Always one to keep his composure, Danzig will need his sense of self when he faces Miller in what is hyped to be the biggest card in the company’s history at UFC 100 on July 11 in Las Vegas. Though most are openly ecstatic at the opportunity, Danzig takes a different approach to the situation, as a true professional would.
“It depends on how you think of it. I try to do my best not to think of stuff like that because I don’t want to get over excited or nervous, I just try to stay focused on the task at hand and I try to treat it just like any other fight and that’s the best way for me to deal with something like this mentally.
“I’ll enjoy it more when the fight is done,” he explained.
Though New Jersey’s Miller is an opponent who brings many dangerous tools into the fight, it’s his name recognition that is still lacking inside the UFC. He is still looking for a signature win to make a big impact in his division.
“I’m facing an extremely tough guy. It’s a tough fight because he’s one of those guys where he doesn’t really have a big name in the sport yet because he hasn’t got a chance to show what he’s all about against guys on a main card. People from the main stream fans that don’t really follow the sport closely probably expect me to win and it’s a tough situation.”
With fight time nearing and training culminating this week, Danzig will lay it all on the line once again in order to cement his job inside the organization where a wayward East to West Coast trip seven years ago has brought him to today, in this moment.
“What else can I do but train my ass off and fight? That’s what I’m gonna do. The pressure is there, but I gotta put that out of my mind and do my best to beat this guy.”