For former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight contender Danny Castillo, fighting in the UFC wasn’t ever necessarily on his radar.
Not because he didn’t want to, but because he wasn’t sure he would ever be afforded the opportunity since he was under the WEC banner. The two organizations have since merged. Castillo was one of the fighter’s picked to head to the big show. For him, it’s likened to anybody else’s childhood dreams coming true.
“The UFC is like the Super Bowl of MMA, if you will, and I’m excited to be in the big show,” Castillo said as a guest on MMAWeekly Radio.
“When you’re a kid and you’re playing Pop Warner, to be in the NFL is your dream. Now being in the UFC was a dream that I never really thought about. I kind of got complacent being in the WEC, because in my eyes the WEC was a great organization, and it’s sad to see it go, but now I’m in the UFC and it’s time to start making some moves.
“I’ve always been motivated, but now it kind of pumps it up to a new level.”
The “Team Alpha Male” product knew that any first fight in the UFC would be a tough one. Though not even he would have expected that he would be facing an “Ultimate Fighter” winner, let alone former title challenger, but that’s exactly who Castillo got when he got the call from manager Mike Roberts to take on Joe “Daddy” Stevenson.
“Actually, I got the call and he said, ‘are you ready to make your UFC debut?’ I’m like, ‘yeah, man. Let’s go. I’m ready. I’ve been training hard,’” recalled Castillo.
“He’s like, ‘well, it’s in about four weeks and are you ready for a step up in competition?’ I’m like, ‘yeah, man. Let’s go. Who is it? You’re scaring me a little bit. Just go with it. Spit it out!’ And then he told me it was Joe Stevenson, and right off the bat I thought it was going to beat a TUF champ.
“I’m really happy the way everything turned out. It’s cliché, but everything happens for a reason.”
It’s not personal for Castillo, but you can tell he carries a chip on his shoulder. He originally tried out for the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” where he made it to the finals of the casting call process. The producers phoned the lightweight standout at the last minute only to tell him they were going in a different direction on the show. Castillo eventually made his way to the WEC, and suggests that he’ll be fighting Stevenson with the same sort of tenacity he would approach someone belittling his own mother.
“If him and I were to bump into each other in the street and something were to happen, he disrespected my mom or something, and we were to fight right there, I think it would be the same kind of fight,” stated Castillo.
“I’ve already prepared for this fight. Coming off of two consecutive wins, and my last fight being a knockout in the first round, I think I have a ton of momentum to me. I’ve got the ball rolling. I just can’t express how anxious and how excited I am. It’s a crazy feeling, and not too many people get an opportunity to feel this and I truly am blessed.”
The two lightweights will meet on the preliminary portion of Thursday’s UFC on Versus 3, which takes place at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
Castillo has been in Stevenson’s shoes before. The former contender has fallen on hard times, coming into the fight on the heels of two consecutive losses and possibly facing termination of his contract should he come up short against the 31-year-old. But don’t expect Castillo to take his opponent lightly or afford him any opportunity to ruin his recently realized dream of becoming a UFC fighter.
“I’ve been there. Sean Shelby and Reed Harris were ready to rip my contract up after I lost those two fights against Shane Roller and Anthony Pettis. So I’ve been there, I know how it feels. It’s such a horrible feeling, and it’s gotta be worse for him because Joe ‘Daddy,’ he has like twenty five kids or something. I don’t know how many kids he has. There’s got to be a lot of pressure on him to win this fight, and I know that. I’m ready for it, and I know I’m going to fight the best Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson.”