UFC on FOX 9: Danny Castillo hopes to crack the Top 10 with a win over Barboza

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

UFC lightweight standout, Danny Castillo discusses the impact Ludwig has had on him, his desire to crack the Top 10 and the time Team Alpha Male inadvertently taunted Georges St. Pierre without even knowing it.

Alpha Male has always been a solid team, but since the placement of Duane Ludwig as the head coach, they've experienced a marked increase in their success. Statistics guru, Fightnomics Reed put out an excellent breakdown recently, and the numbers are staggering. Obviously, not all of their success this year can be attributed solely to Ludwig, but there's no denying he's definitely made a positive impact on the team.

Ludwig was a guest on the MMA Hour this past Monday and discussed the team dynamic and the constant strides forward they have been making. He predicted a clean sweep this weekend for all 4 of the Alpha Male fighters on the card, and firmly believes that one or more of the members will be wearing a belt in the very near future.

Among those to benefit from his tutelage, Duane named Lightweight, Danny Castillo as the most improved member of the team. I recently interviewed Danny, who discussed the impact Ludwig has had on him, his desire to crack the Top 10 and the time Team Alpha Male inadvertently taunted Georges St. Pierre without even knowing it.

Stephie Daniels: There are guys that are sort of the informal welcome wagons to new fighters coming into the UFC. Your last two fights have taken you in a different direction, causing you to sort of be the reaper, ushering guys out. Do those unexpected outcomes bother you at all, or is that just business?

Danny Castillo: That kind of sucks. I'm not really friends with any of these guys, and I can't take it personally, but I don't want to be responsible for anyone losing their job. I don't lose sleep at night over it, but when you put it like that, it kind of sucks.

Stephie Daniels: How do you feel about Ludwig's praise of your progress?

Danny Castillo: I was kind of shocked, but at the same time, I got a little lump in my throat, because Coach Bang is awesome, and to hear that from someone who sees me every day, gives me extra motivation to go in there and prove him right. He's a legend-yeah, I said it-he's a legend, and for him to say that is a huge pat on the back for me, and it's great to know he thinks so highly of my efforts.

Stephie Daniels: What aspect of Bang's coaching do you feel the successful evolution of the team comes from?

Danny Castillo: He basically put structure into our team. We're willing to work hard, we always have been, and now that we have direction, that hard work is starting to pay off more. Before, I felt like we were working extremely hard, but we were getting nowhere. We were just going in circles as fast as we could, but now we're focused and being guided in the right direction, up that mountain to the top. I think three of our guys are ranked Number 1 in the world right now, which is insane. I don't think too many teams have that.

Stephie Daniels: Do you feel that with a win over Edson, you'll finally be able to crack the Top 10?

Danny Castillo: I hope so, I really do. He's a really talented fighter, and with a win over him, I feel like I should get some recognition, but if not, it's not going to be the end of the world for me, because I'm still going to get paid the same. I've always been the underdog, the dark horse in almost all of my fights. I just want to win.

Stephie Daniels: Are you waiting for the day when you're not the underdog?

Danny Castillo: That's going to be the day when I'm shitting bricks [laughs]. Hey, what's going on here? People are actually picking me to win this fight. What the Hell is this?

Seriously, this time around, it's been really positive. Most of the time, I've got a group of fans of the other guy, or some analyst telling me what round I'm going to get knocked out in, how I'm going to lose and stuff like that, but not this time. I feel like all my hard work over the last six years have come full circle. People are finally starting to realize that I do have some talent and that I am a good fighter.

Stephie Daniels: You guys have some females training out there now, most notably Paige VanZant. Are we going to see another branch of the team, an Alpha Female sector?

Danny Castillo: That would be awesome, especially if people like Paige, who's been putting in the work, are the core group. She's in there every day, training and getting better. It's good to see. When they put in the work, girl or guy, and I've seen them so many times that they've become a fixture, I'm totally for them becoming a part of the team. I actually think we might see it, though. She is going to be in the UFC, and for our team, the more people, the better.

Stephie Daniels: Outside of Anthony Pettis, is there any particular loss you'd like to get back with a rematch?

Danny Castillo: I'd like to get them all back, because I'm the best I've ever been right now. The fights that I lost, I feel I'm a way better fighter than I was back then, and I feel I can win those fights. The most recent fight I lost was to Johnson, and I felt I was winning that before I got caught. He's a good fighter and is getting a lot more exposure, especially after beating Lauzon. Do I think I can beat him now? I know I can.

Stephie Daniels: You've been around long enough to have had something extraordinary or memorable happen in your presence. There has to be some oddball story just waiting to be told. Do you have something like that for our readers?

Danny Castillo: Right at the beginning when Coach Bang first got to our team...well, you have to recall that famous moment where Nick Diaz called out GSP, ‘Where you at mother*cker? Where you at?' In our gym, we would always say that, ‘Where you at? Where you at mother*cker?' to kind of pump each other up during drills and whatnot. We had been saying it so much that when we were in the locker room at a card T.J. Dillashaw was on, and we're all pretty much chanting it, we realized that Firas was there and so was GSP. We were in there shouting this like hundreds of times. I've always wondered if GSP took offense to that [laughs].

Danny Castillo vs Edson Barboza will be featured on the televised portion of the prelims via FOX Sports 1.

You can follow Danny via his Twitter account, @LastCall155

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