Two lightweights that are on the brink of the top-15 are squaring off in the UFC 177 co-main event, as Danny “Last Call” Castillo takes on The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 winner Tony Ferguson.
Castillo made his way into the UFC after a knockout win over Will Kerr at WEC 53. That event was the final in WEC history, as the UFC had bought the organization and the winning fighters got their transfer papers to come over to the UFC.
Since his debut inside the Octagon at UFC on Versus 3 against Joe Stevenson in March 2011, “Last Call” has gone 7-3. At one point he was riding an impressive three-fight winning streak, however has yet to really make a name for himself in the UFC’s 155-pound division.
“I believe that’s just the division that I’m in. I think the lightweight division on paper I believe it’s got double, if not triple that any other weight class has. The talent pool — it’s a shark tank full of talented fighters,” Castillo told Sucka Radio. “Any other weight class if I were to have won three-in-a-row I think people would be talking about me, I’d be on the main cards and stuff like that. Just because of the lightweight division, there are so many tough guys, I feel like anyone in the division can beat anyone in the top-10 on any given day. It’s a really, really tough division.”
The case is true that the lightweight division is stacked, so much that many fighters drop weight classes in order to compete on a higher level.
One way for Castillo to get to that higher level is his improved striking. It was announced that Duane “Bang” Ludwig would be leaving Team Alpha Male as their head coach, which left people speculating as to how the team would progress.
Ludwig’s last Alpha Male coaching job was supposed to be T.J. Dillashaw’s UFC 173 fight against Renan Barao. He wound up sticking around for Chad Mendes’ rematch against Jose Aldo at UFC 176, however Aldo pulled out and the event was cancelled. As time would have it, Dillashaw is now set to fight in the UFC 177 main event in a rematch against Barao, so “Bang” stuck around for that, which means Castillo has been able to take advantage of him being around this whole time.
“I’m not spreading myself, he’s in the gym. I work out with him — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and he flies home on Friday to be with his family and he’s working on opening his academy. The media seems like there’s this big beef and there’s drama, but if you came into the gym you wouldn’t tell there was a problem at all — there’s not really a problem,” Castillo said. “He stuck around for Chad Mendes’ title fight, that card got cancelled. Then T.J.’s [Dillashaw] card got announced and he stuck around for that so I’ve been working with him this whole time. In fact I get one-on-one time with him, so the cancellation of [UFC] 176 was a true blessing for me because I get to fight in my home town, then Jon Jones got hurt so I’m now the co-main event. With the cancellation of the card I got six extra weeks with “Bang” so we’re just going to have to see August 30 just how much I’ve improved from working with Duane.”
Castillo’s next task is Ferguson in the UFC 177 co-main event. “El Cucuy’s” known for his knockout power, as six of his last eight victories have come by either knockout or TKO.
The 35-year-old however doesn’t feel like his opponents or fights are on par with his. Castillo fought in the now defunct WEC from 2008-2010 and fought some top notch talent that have gone on to success in the UFC.
“My two last fights compared to the caliber of his last two fights, it’s not even on the same level. I’ve fought some of the best guys in the world, even in the WEC you have guys like Benson Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Dustin Poirier — they’re all lightweights and I’ve been fighting the best since I came into the sport. Eight months of training and I was fighting the best guys in the world. I’m a competitor, I’m here to compete. It’s what I’ve been doing my entire life.”
With his striking game now on-point, Castillo also has a fantastic jiu-jitsu game that doesn’t get shown off all too often either. Either way, Castillo feels that he is better than him in every facet possible.
“I’ve fought better strikers than him — I feel like Tim Means is a better striker than him, I feel like Anthony Njokuani is a better striker than him, I can go down the list. I feel like Edson Barboza’s a better striker than him. His jiu-jitsu, he’s a purple belt under 10th Planet — there’s no way his guard is better than Paul Sass. After my fight with Charlie Brenneman I flew to Brazil seven days later and competed in Copa Podio and the grappling match was no time, no points and submission only. I was able to submit a black belt in eight minutes, so I’m not taking anything away from him.
“The one thing I do see from him is he’s very durable. He’s tough and he has a lot of heart. That’s what I’m preparing for, skill-set wise I feel like I’m the better fighter everywhere.”