by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Last year was a year for many new emerging stars to get their opportunity to shine and perhaps none shined brighter than Millennia Jiu-Jitsu fighter Mac Danzig. At just 25-years-old, Danzig had been fighting in MMA since 2001 and had done well in his career, but never had the opportunity to make a real push in the business until 2005.
When he was given that opportunity, he took it and ran with it, winning all six of his fights last year, culminating in his first major MMA title as he defeated Takumi Nakayama for the King of the Cage Lightweight Championship in October. Now poised to make his first title defense, Danzig took the time out to discuss with MMA Weekly his breakthrough year and what he’s got in store for 2006.
“It went really well, it was probably the best year since I’ve been fighting,” said a pleased Danzig. “I finally got the fights lined up that I needed to get lined up and I actually did the right thing and won all of them and put on good performances. Like I say, ‘when preparation and opportunity meet,’ and that’s what happened. I was happy because for so many years I struggled getting fights. People pulling out, a lot of injuries, I was able to avoid most serious injuries and get everything done, so it was good.”
Mac continued, “I finally got a chance to showcase my skills. I was fighting in venues that were really small against guys that weren’t really that good back in 2002/03 and when I finally got the chance to drop to 155 the right way with a new diet I was able to put everything together. Sometimes it takes a couple years in your career, a couple years of training and fighting, to get to the point where you’ve stepped your game up. That’s what happened. I’m happy but there is still tons of room for improvement.”
Next up for Danzig is his first title defense against a very tough and game fighter who is known for a never-say-die attitude. “I’m going to be fighting Jason Ireland, who’s a really tough guy and experienced, I think he’s like 14-5. It will be on March 18th in Detroit on KOTC PPV defending my title. It’s going to be a good fight. I’ve seen him fight, he had a really good fight with Jorge Gurgel last year and Jorge was able to beat him, but it was a really good fight. People were saying it was a Fight of the Year candidate and outside of the UFC or Pride, it was Fight of the Year. I look for him to be really aggressive and come out hard and it should be a really good fight. I definitely see myself winning though.”
Now that he his a champion and is expected to be a draw, Mac feels confident that he’s at the point in his career where he’ll be able to step up into that role and flourish, whereas in the past he might not have.
“It feels good because I’m ready for it. Maybe a couple of years I may have not been ready for it, the pressure might have bothered me a bit, but now I’m fine with it,” admitted Danzig. “I’m glad I’m finally getting the fights I want. I’ve got eight fights lined up this year for King of the Cage and it’s great and I want to stay active and test myself against good guys. That’s something in the past wasn’t happening. Just having the security of knowing that I’m wanted and have fights coming up, that’s fine with me, I’m ready to take on good guys. I’m not interested in fighting sub-par fighters anymore; I want to fight Top 15-20 guys at least every fight.”
Mac’s recent success has helped his team, Millennia Jiu-Jitsu, step back into the spotlight as one of the premier up and coming teams in MMA. Along with WEC Lightweight Champion Gabe Ruediger and future returning UFC fighter John Alessio, Danzig helps form a foundation for success the team can build on for quite some time to come.
“To finally see a payoff with John finally getting his second shot with the UFC against Diego Sanchez, my success, Gabe’s, it’s great to see all the hard work pay off and now Millennia is starting to get a name again,” commented Mac. “Before I joined the team they had built up quite a name for themselves in KOTC with Javier Vazquez and Romie (Aram), those guys went in and won fights and titles in KOTC and now we’re getting back to that again. We’ve got four champions in three different weight classes, so it’s great.”
Speaking of Alessio, Danzig believes he’ll be more than a match for rising UFC star Diego Sanchez when the two face off in April. “John is a lot better than people know or think that he is. He’s one of those guys who in the beginning of his career that got thrown to the wolves because of the team he was with and did pretty well still for being a young kid. If people judge him on fighting (Pat) Miletich when he was 19-years-old way back in the day, he’s a completely different fighter now. I can tell you first hand, training all around with fighters all over the place, I can tell you that he’s got what it takes to beat Diego.”
Mac continued, “Diego is really hard to take out of his gameplan. He just goes and goes and comes forward all the time, you know what he’s going to do but you’re unable to stop it because he’s such a dominant wrestler. What people don’t understand about John is that he’s a good wrestler himself and a good counter-wrestler and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does something to Diego like Georges St. Pierre did to Sean Sherk, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Diego is very tough and we’re not underestimating him in the least bit, but people are going to have their eyes opened with John fights.”
When speaking of his future prospects, Danzig hopes that his success in KOTC will lead to a trip overseas, which has been a dream of his for a long time. “My main goal is to fight in Japan. Right now with my contract with KOTC I don’t think I’m going to be seen in the UFC for at least a year, but that’s okay because I’m happy with the affiliation KOTC has with organizations in Japan like Bushido. I’m happy with Monte Cox, who’s managing me right now, and I know he has some ins. I feel like if I just do my job, which is to win fights and win them impressively, which I should be able to do, I don’t see why I shouldn’t get a chance to fight in Bushido by either late this year or early next year.”
As for who he’d like to fight if given his dream opportunity in Pride, Mac made it clear that there is one fighter there that just rubs him the wrong way. “I really want to fight (Tatsuya) Kawajiri, there’s something about that guy, I don’t know why, I don’t know him personally, but I really want to beat the crap out of him [laughs]. I don’t know what it is, but I just see that guy and I know he’s a really tough fight and I want to fight him. I want to fight any of those guys in Bushido or Top 10 guys; it doesn’t matter.”
Danzig concluded, “I just want to say I go out there to be the most exciting fighter I can be every time. I’m a fan of the sport myself, so boring fights aren’t something I’m going to be having any time if I have any say in it. It’s going to be a barnburner every time and that’s all there is to it. As far as people I want to thank, Warrior Wear is a great sponsor that’s helping me out and I’d like to thank everyone up in Utah that I trained with, Jeremy Horn, Billy Rush and Joe Riggs.”