Photo by Esther Lin for MMA Fighting.
Being a part of Team Alpha Male is about more than being really, really good looking. It's about more than checking one's self out in the mirrored reflections of the windows of the TUF house. For Danny Castillo, it's about trying out the best that Nevada has to offer among the various top level training centers, while preparing himself for another outing in the octagon, and helping out fellow teammate, Urijah Faber, with coaching his team on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. Castillo recently spoke to TapouT Radio about his preparation for John Cholish this weekend at UFC On Fox 3, and gave his thoughts on the current TUF season.
*Note: Interviewer is either my co-host, Evan Shoman of TapouT Radio, or myself. When I don't conduct these interviews by myself, I just put "Interviewer" to eliminate having to bounce back and forth between three different names.
Interviewer: Is this training camp a really good one for you because of the diversity of pros brought in to the TUF house that you can train with, in addition to the elite level gyms around Las Vegas you can utilize?
Danny Castillo: Yeah, I definitely like it. It gets me away from my daily stresses that I have. I've come to the point in my career where I'm a true professional. I enjoy what I do, and I'm finding ways to exercise and stay in shape. I try not to get out of shape too much.
As far as the training, I've got eight new sparring partners, all my weight, all different styles. I have my team there, and I have a bunch of new coaches. I've been working with Sergio Pena, and his jiu jitsu is phenomenal. I was able to get in the Mayweather Boxing Club, and box there with Jeff Mayweather, and spar with some pros, including Zab Judah's little brother.
It's been a great experience, and I'm not just doing this specifically for John Cholish. I'm looking towards my future, so I can become the best mixed martial artist that I can. It doesn't matter if I was fighting John Cholish or Frankie Edgar, I'm still constantly trying to improve.
Interviewer: You were in California this past week. Are you winding down your camp there?
Danny Castillo: I basically came home just to relax. I have the opposite problem from most people, in that I tend to overtrain, so I set aside six or seven days to come home, where I could sleep in my own bed, hang out with my friends and family, see my girlfriend, and play with my dog. It's just my way of grounding myself.
This is the stuff that I'm working for and that I'm fighting so hard for. When I'm around these people, I get the feeling that it would be too hard for me to let these guys down. I know it sounds cheesy, but I'd rather die in that cage than let some of these people down, because they support me. Being home is therapeutic for me.
I went and rolled with Nick and Nate Diaz at Cesar Gracie's as soon as I got back, just to stay on the grind. I worked with my strength coach, saw my massage therapist, and just fine tuning myself for this fight.
Interviewer: You fought four times in 2011, but this time around, it's been five months since your last fight. Did you feel like the longer layoff was a beneficial thing, or have you just been itching to get back in there the whole time?
Danny Castillo: The rest period was good, but I still like to stay active. I think the time off was good. I had some minor injuries, nothing serious, that I was able to heal up, and I was able to work on my skills. The more I was able to work on things I was lacking in, the better I got, and the more confidence I got. Those holes and gaps that I had in my MMA game are slowly starting to close, and my confidence level is at an all time high going into this fight.
Interviewer: What do you think of your opponent's skillset?
Danny Castillo: When I look at John Cholish's record, he's 8-1, he's on a huge win streak, but the majority of those guys he beat, I wouldn't say they're scrubs, but I think he's only beaten two people, out of those nine fights, with a winning record.
I have four losses on my record, and all four guys are currently in the UFC. Two of them are in the Top 10. I've done this, and I've been fighting tough guys for the majority of my career. It's hard to put my record against his.
I know he's got a great jiu jitsu background. My only loss in the UFC has been to Jacob Volkmann, who is a great grappler, so I'm guessing his coaches are going to go with the gameplan for him to try to take me down and grind me out.
Interviewer: Let's talk about the TUF house. What do you think of the live format for this season?
Danny Castillo: I enjoy the live show. I have to admit, the first episode, where they had to fight to get in the house, was terrible. There was a ton of awkward silences, and it was just not put together right, but it's trial and error, and that was the first show. They've tweaked it, and now I think it's great. The live show is awesome.
It's great for me, also. There's a fight every Friday, so I'm in there, in that locker room, getting ready with those guys, so it's helping me out for my fight, as well.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on the fighters that are in the house?
Danny Castillo: I would say that these guys had a great base coming into the house. The first couple weeks that I was sparring with them, I would say that they weren't UFC caliber fighters, but as the weeks have gone on, they are completely turning it up. I went from sparring with no head gear and hands down, to full head gear and hands up.
It's cool to see them get better, and I think that's the most rewarding thing for a coach. I wouldn't say I'm doing too much coaching. Half the time I'm on set, and the other half, I'm training for my own fight. It's a great experience, and I'm glad to be a part of it.
Interviewer: The tension and rivalry between Urijah and Dominic seems to have lessened some. Have they come to some sort of understanding now?
Danny Castillo: They really don't like each other. I think they respect each other. They're not going to be punching each other, because they're true professionals.
Interviewer: What are the standards that Team Alpha Male tries to follow?
Danny Castillo: We try to be as humble as possible and represent ourselves and our team in a positive manner. Our guidelines, or unspoken rules are to basically give it your all, and don't act like a complete jackass. When it's fight time, it's make weight, fight, and win your fight.
Follow Danny via his Twitter, @lastcall155