UFC lightweight Danny Downes is taking a big risk.
Instead of waiting on the sidelines for his first UFC fight after a win at WEC 53 in December, Downes is being proactive and is being allowed to take a fight outside the organization when he faces Tory Bogguess on Friday at NAFC: Mayhem in Milwaukee. A win puts him on track for a UFC debut, but a loss could leave him on the outside looking in.
"Obviously that's the risk," Downes said last week on Bloody Elbow Radio. "It's kind of the profession. When you go and fight grown men in cages for money in front of people, there's a risk. If I were risk adverse, I'd probably be an accountant or something instead. It goes with the territory. Obviously, there's a different pressure when you're the favorite going into a fight as opposed to an underdog. I understand I have a lot more to lose in this fight than my opponent, but that's the way it works. If you want something secure, you probably need to find a different profession."
Downes, who hasn't fought since defeating Tiequan Zhang by unanimous decision at WEC 53, is looking forward to getting back into the cage.
"I'm still under contract with Zuffa, but the lightweight division right now is kind of stacked and it's really heavy," he said. "There's going to be a long layoff between my next fight and my previous one, and this one kind of fell in my lap. Out here in Milwaukee, it kind of happened on short notice. I asked the UFC if I could get a fight outside to get some work, kind of like a tune-up, get the rust off.
"It's nice to be able to get this opportunity. You can train and spar all you want, but there's no substitute for that actual experience. You can't teach that. It'll be nice to keep it going instead of having a really long layoff."
After taking his first WEC on just a few days notice against Chris Horodecki, Downes (7-1 MMA) found himself in a much better position when he fought Zhang. Unfortunately, in his own words, the first round of that fight went "terrible" and "awful."
"As bad as that first round went, as soon as it was over, I thought I had the fight," Downes said. "There was a brief time when I reversed him, I got on top and I could feel he was totally spent and he didn't have much left."
Downes went on to win both the second and third rounds en route to the biggest victory of his career.
"It was huge," he said. "Obviously professionally, because it got me in the UFC, but even personally, say what you will about the Horodecki fight, it's still a loss. It's a hard thing to try to tell all these people, they don't see all the work you put in in the gym, how hard you're training. All they see is when you fight and you go out there, you don't perform well, they say, 'Well this guy is a professional?' I felt justified to show people, even locally in Wisconsin, (that I did belong in the WEC)."
With the UFC headed to Milwaukee in August for a Versus show, Downes wouldn't mind getting a slot on that show should he win Friday. Still, he recognizes where he stands and isn't about to go making requests.
"That'd be great, but I'm the low man on the totem pole," he said. "I'm not really in the position to make demands, so if they want me to fight in Milwaukee, Abu Dhabi, whatever, I'll just go where they tell me."
You can hear the entire interview with Downes on last Thursday's edition of Bloody Elbow Radio.