Wrong place, wrong time. Unfortunately, professional athletes aren’t all bad guys, but the public has no problem jumping on the bandwagon of false perception, regardless of fact.

Daniel Straus grew up in a rough situation. He had a single parent to raise him, left home before finishing high school and wasn’t really headed anywhere in life. The Bellator featherweight title contender left his hometown of Cincinnati for Florida, but his luck got worse. Jailed in 2004 on burglary charges, Straus spent three years in the clink before returning to Cincinnati to continue in the “odd jobs” industry. However, it was back in his hometown that his life began to turn for the better.

After much persuasion from an old friend, Straus began training in MMA, with no prior experience outside of his high school wrestling days, when he was quite successful. His first professional fight was in February 2009, and, although he lost by second-round submission, he was hooked. So hooked, in fact, that he fought 11 times that year, racked up an 8-3 record and faced current Bellator featherweight champ Pat Curran, who was also an up-and-comer in the sport.

Straus (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Straus (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Fast-forward to October 2012.

Straus last fought a little over a year ago, when he choked out BJJ black belt Alvin Robinson in the second round at Bellator 78. This brought his pro record to 21-4 in just three and a half years and earned him his first Bellator title shot against none other than Curran.

Straus was on a cloud. Everything was going his way. He was preparing for a title shot on one of the biggest stages in the sport. However, life decided to throw a couple curveballs his way.

First, the Ohio native suffered a broken hand during training, which postponed his title shot. Then, another case surfaced of a pro athlete being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In March, only a couple weeks after he had to postpone his fight, he was riding around with some guys he didn’t know very well. They were pulled over, and the guy he actually didn’t know at all dumped his dope in the backseat of Straus’s vehicle, leaving him to take the rap for a possession charge that he swears to this day had nothing to do with him.

Even though possession of cannabis and ecstasy is a petty crime with minimal penalties, Straus’s history came haunting back, and, of course, the public and the media blew it way out of proportion. He’s a black man with dreadlocks and tattoos, and people found it way too easy to paint their own picture of who he really is. But the man is fed up with it. He’s a professional fighter and a father, and he’s just trying to keep his head down and focus on the task at hand.

“I’m a human being,” said Straus in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I’ve made mistakes in my life. I’m not a bad guy. I’m not a troublemaker. I’m not a guy that’s turning my back on the doors and opportunities that are opening up to me. I’m just a normal guy. I like to be around my family, I like to be around my friends, and I’m a humble person. I’m not a guy that just runs around and finds trouble.”

Anybody that wants to question Straus should just take a look at his record. The guy has 25 fights in less than four years. That’s not the mark of a man who sits around getting high and looking for trouble. He may have had some troubles in his past, but for a person who’s spent all of his adult life making a living for himself with little to no support from the people who brought him into this world, he’s done a pretty damn good job of putting food on the table as a legitimate professional athlete.

Straus has fought under the Bellator banner since June 2010, racking up a 7-1 record in the promotion with his only loss coming from Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in the season-four tournament final. Pitbull’s only loss since then came when he got his title shot in January against Curran. Straus has different plans for his shot tomorrow night at the Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, Calif.

StrausMillsSherdog2“I think it’s going to be a tough fight, regardless of who wins,” explained the Ohio native. “I definitely see myself coming out on top. With this fight, I have to finish him, whether choking him out or knocking him out. I’ve got to get the finish. I don’t think I can go all five rounds and win this fight with the judges the way they are nowadays with this being a title fight and me being the challenger.”

Straus is no stranger to fighting Curran, but when they first met, it was not in the Bellator cage and both men were fairly new to pro MMA. Now, they have evolved and the action should be non-stop.

“We are both different fighters from the first time we fought,” said Straus. “I’ve been watching him progress, and watching myself progress. We match-up pretty evenly. What he beats me at, I feel that I beat him in other aspects.

“I understand the sport better. I understand boxing, I understand jiu-jitsu, and I understand the sport in general. When we first fought, it was early in my career, and I was basically just getting in there to fight. Now, I’ve collected coaches and I’ve collected some good training partners, and it’s just different this time.”

“Good coaches and training partners” is a gentle way of saying that he has a tremendous camp at American Top Team. They have certainly done everything in their power to help Straus prepare to bring that strap back to Florida. With a solid eight-week camp, the best weight cut he’s ever had and the support of teammates, family, friends and sponsors, Straus is ready to step in that cage and avenge his previous loss to Curran.

After his first fight against Curran, Straus went on a 12-fight winning streak before encountering his sole loss in his last 18 fights to Pitbull. While avenging losses is not always a possibility in this sport, a win over Curran would put Straus one step closer to a rematch against Pitbull. After his loss to Curran, Pitbull has won three times in the last three months and is about one fight away from his own title shot.

“I would love to fight Patricio again,” admitted Straus. “He’s another guy I’ve fought and lost to, and he’s been doing well, and I want to fight the best guys. He’s one of the best guys. It would be good to get another match with him.”

Always focused on the task at hand, Straus would never look past a champ like Curran, and that rematch carries a lot more significance with the belt involved. However, it would be interesting to see how he would fair against the fiery little Pitbull.

On Saturday night, in the co-main event of Bellator 106, Straus is going to be in the right place at the right time. After a long, tough road, the self-made man is finally getting his shot at glory. Public perception doesn’t mean squat when that cage door closes.

Straus would like to thank Swole Sports, Contract Killer, ML Management, and all of his teammates and coaches. Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielStraus

Photo: Daniel Straus (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator