The UFC Lightweight division is probably the most stacked division right now, featuring a wealth of talent in its ranks. Two rising stars of the weight class will be facing off Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 177, Danny Castillo vs. Tony Ferguson. The fight is probably the most intriguing one on the card, at least for me, and will likely place the winner squarely in the Top 15 of the UFC's rankings.
In a recent Bloody Elbow interview, Castillo discussed his upcoming bout with Ferguson, dispels rumors that he bullied a boxer into retirement and gives an update on Duane Ludwig's continuing work with Team Alpha Male. Here's what he had to say:
Stephie Daniels: There has been a small contingency of fans that voiced disappointment in you and Tony being the co-main event. Does this bother you in any way, or fuel your drive to succeed a little more?
Danny Castillo: It's kind of frustrating because I don't feel like those are really true fans. The true fans know how talented Tony Ferguson is, and the true fans know how talented I am. I've been in the sport for a long time. This is my 19th fight with the company.
I've put in the work. I've put in 4 or 5 fights on short notice, I've fought 3 or 4 guys that didn't come in on weight; I kept my mouth shut and kept working. I don't know what else to say about that. People are just always gonna have something to say about you, no matter who you are.
Stephie Daniels: Recently, one of your teammates, T.J. Dillashaw said something on the Joe Rogan Experience (57:30 mark in the video) that fired up a lot of people because it makes you seem like a bully. What's the background story on this?
Danny Castillo: I saw this on the Underground and it's the biggest bullshit I've ever heard. Basically, we had a boxer that came into the gym that was this tough gangster. He went on a trip with us and Justin Bucholz and I were just giving him the talk about being a gangster and not being tough just because of that. He was this hardcore dude that felt like he had to mean mug people and basically try to scare people. We gave him some shit over that, yeah. What it doesn't say is that we were just at his wedding four months ago.
He didn't quit the sport because of that. He quit MMA to go back to boxing. He lost two fights after that and then opened up his own gym. It had nothing to do with me bullying him or anything like that. It's the most absurd thing ever.
*Image of Danny Castillo and Mike Ortega at Ortega's wedding*
Stephie Daniels: What weight do you walk at when you're not in training camp, 3 weeks into your training, and how much do you put back on between weighing in and fight time?
Danny Castillo: Well, I can't remember the last time I saw 180 pounds. I'm always working. I never sit around getting fat or take time off. I don't eat bad. I try to stay gluten-free and dairy-free as much as possible. The biggest I get is about 176.
During fight camp, I'm about 168. Two weeks ago I was at 165. Right now I'm at 163. Between weigh-ins and the Octagon I'll put on probably about 10 pounds. I'm a professional, so I make sure my weight is always on point.
I think weight cutting in college really kind of screwed me up; it ruined me. I hate saunas now. I hate cutting weight. I'd rather eat clean and stay around my natural weight. That way I don't have to stress much about cutting weight. I think that's the worst thing you can do for your body.
Stephie Daniels: Would you like to see more weight classes added?
Danny Castillo: You know, I think there should be one more weight class between 55 and 70. I'm not sure how they would do it. I think the sport is so crazy right now with so many cards and so many new fighters, that it's hard to keep track. Who knows, maybe it's fine the way it is. Maybe add a weight class somewhere else, like between 185 and 205 or make a 220 pound division.
Stephie Daniels: Duane has been steadily training the guys from your camp despite talks of him leaving to set up his own training facility. What's the team dynamic like right now and what's the outlook for the future?
Danny Castillo: Well, he left and went to Colorado to start his academy, and Chad got the call and since we were fighting on the same card at that point, so we agreed to split the cost of having him come out. We worked out a deal where it would be beneficial for him to come out.
For the last 12 weeks, he's been here Monday - Thursday and flies back on Thursdays to be with his family. Around the time of the cancellation of 176, T.J. got the call, so he just stayed out here to train him too. He was supposed to stick around for Andre Fili's fight, but I believe he's off that card now, so I'm not sure where things will be at now.
It's been his dream for a long time to have his own academy, so there's no hard feelings from me. I'll work with Duane for the rest of my career. If I have to fly to Colorado to work with him there, I will. We have so many guys on the team now that at any given time, there will be 1 or 2 guys on a fight card now, so it kind of makes it easier for him to come out.
Stephie Daniels: So much has been made of a seemingly bad fall out between Duane and Urijah. Is there any evidence of this or was just blown way out of proportion?
Danny Castillo: People on social media just want to run with it, ‘Well Duane hates Faber' or ‘Faber hates Duane' or ‘Oh my God, they can't even be in the same room with each other!' It's all bullshit.
Faber's Number 1 goal is to put together the best possible team. Duane is an awesome coach, and all he wants to do is create better athletes and help them progress. They're in the same gym all the time and there are no hard feelings between them.
On a personal level, I don't know. They could hate each other and I would never be able to tell. That's how professional the atmosphere is. You'd never even know if they had beef.
Everything is working well. I hope it all stays like this where he keeps flying back for Monday through Thursday training with us. The reality of it is that he probably won't, so who knows what happens next. I'm just focused on the fight in front of me right now, and he's here for that.
Stephie Daniels: You seem to have evolved a good bit in your fighting style. How much of that would you say Duane is responsible for?
Danny Castillo: Duane is awesome. He's one of the best coaches I've ever had. He makes it where you don't have to worry about anything. He studies film and we've been doing the same drills for the last 10 or 12 weeks, so I know what to expect when I get in there against Tony.
Stephie Daniels: I spoke to you a few months back and you talked about your business ventures outside your fight career and how important it is to plan for your post fight future. Have there been any significant changes with your business (hot pilates studio)?
Danny Castillo: The more fighters we have doing positive things outside the sport is actually good for MMA. The more businessmen, the more entrepeneurs that we have, the better it is for the sport. I know I can't fight forever, so I'm really trying to get myself set for after fighting. I love fighting, and my focus is completely on fighting, but at the same time, I'm looking to open my second location in January. I believe that if I can take the same work ethic that I have in this fight game, and channel it into my businesses, then I can be successful at anything I do.
Danny Castillo vs. Tony Ferguson takes place this Saturday night as the co-main event for the UFC 177 card in Sacramento, California.