The UFC has had more than its share of injury woes over the last couple of years and that trend has continued here in 2014. The UFC was forced to cancel UFC 176 due to an injury to featherweight champion Jose Aldo and all the other bouts on the card were shuffled around and pushed back to later events.

Then UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones suffered an injury and UFC 177’s card saw even more changes. But while the constant state of flux has been a headache for most UFC lightweight Danny Castillo has benefited greatly.

Originally slated to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 176 Castillo’s bout was expected to be a preliminary bout on the non-PPV portion of the card. Now his bout with the former TUF winner is scheduled to be the co-main event and the icing on the cake is that the bout will take place in his hometown.

“I feel great,” Castillo told The MMA Corner. “I just had an awesome day of training and I feel incredible. It’s been a long long camp; I was scheduled to fight on the Aldo-Mendes card and that was cancelled, so I was pushed back. Which was kind of a bummer but then I got the news that I was fighting in my hometown of Sacramento so I couldn’t be happier about the situation. It’s a great fight for me and I’m stoked.”

While everyone is aware of the issues fighters run into when taking a fight on short notice no one pays much attention to the issues that can arise when a fight is pushed back. Over training, bad weight cuts and not peaking at the right time can all be cause for concern but Castillo is confident that he will not have any issues as a result of his bout being push back nearly a month.

“In the past it would have,” Castillo said when asked if he had concerns about his bout being pushed. “But I’ve been in the sport quite some time. I have an amazing team full of vets and my head coach Duane Ludwig has been in combat sports for God knows how long. With his guidance, his knowledge, and experience I pulled back at the right time. I’m so fired up I wish I could fight right now… well not right now, maybe tomorrow.”

A major reason Castillo is so fired up heading into this bout is Team Alpha Male finally has a UFC champion in their midst. T.J. Dillashaw shocked the MMA world when he gave Renan Barao a thorough beating at UFC 173 to win the bantamweight title.

“T.J. (Dillashaw) winning the belt was probably the best thing to happen to this team,” Castillo said. “Second best would probably be Coach Ludwig coming down here. It’s really cool what T.J. did; he put the belt right in front of some hungry and talented fighters. We all know it’s possible, it’s feasible and the motivation…just the energy in the gym is at an all-time high. It’s hard to explain, I can’t really put words to it. Every day is just amazing. I’ve been on sports teams my whole life and I can’t really explain it. I’ve never been on a team with this type of energy.”

While it was a surprising upset to the MMA community as a whole Dillashaw’s victory over Barao wasn’t the least bit surprising to the fighters at Team Alpha Male.

“I think all the guys on the team were the only people who thought T.J. could do it,” Castillo said. “At one point he was an 8 to 1 underdog. I was willing to put $1,000 on T.J. because that’s how confidant I was. He and Coach Bang have this crazy relationship and he is able to pick up Bang’s system the best.”

As one of Dillashaw’s primary drilling partners Castillo’s confidence is at an all-time high but he knows that Ferguson is a real threat.

“Definitely my goal is to finish the fight,” Castillo said. “Anything other than a finish is just going to keep me where I am at. Tony Ferguson is a tough tough dude and very dangerous. He’s got some great BJJ; I know he is a purple belt at 10th Planet. He’s got some power in his hands, he’s got reach, he is real long and he’s super tough. The Michael Johnson fight I think he fought 10-12 minutes with a broken arm. Any time you have a guy who is super durable like that it’s going to be tough to finish. I have my hands full going into this fight but I’m more than prepared. This will be my 19th fight with the company and I’ve fought some of the best lightweights in the world and some of the best featherweights in the world. I fought Ricardo Lamas, I fought Dustin Poirier who are all in the Top 5 I believe in the featherweight division. I fought Pettis; I fought (Donald) “Cowboy” Cerrone. If you look at my resume and you look at his resume experience is definitely going to be a factor going into this fight.”

Experience is one of the most important weapons a fighter can have heading into a tough matchup and it is his experience that gives Castillo supreme confidence heading into this fight.

“It gives you a lot of confidence,” Castillo said. “I’m in the deepest weight class in the UFC with the biggest talent pool in the UFC and I’ve been around for quite some time. Just having that in the back of my mind is just something that is a driving force for me. I’ve fought the best already not taking anything away from Tony Ferguson but I’ve fought better guys than Tony Ferguson.”

If Castillo is going to make a run at the lightweight title the time is now because time is not on his side. At 35, the clock is ticking and father time is undefeated.

“I’m 35, but I’m 27 at heart,” Castillo said. “I feel like I still have yet to reach my potential, but I’m getting there. I’m the fastest I’ve ever been. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, but definitely age is a factor. It’s a race against time for me to reach that goal and that goal is to be the best 155 pounder in the world. There’s already so much pressure on me to win; so much pressure on me to…if you lose you only get half your money. I don’t live a really lavish lifestyle, but I’m comfortable with where I’m at in terms of my salary. If I only got half of my money that would be pretty sad; I’d be really frustrated. I probably wouldn’t go on vacation. I wouldn’t buy as many pair of shoes.”

Unlike many athletes in his position Castillo has a plan for the future; a plan that he put into motion in 2013.

“Looking beyond my career I’m a business owner,” Castillo said. “I opened P20 Hot Pilates Studio in Sacramento and we are doing extremely well. We are the #1 Pilates studio in Sacramento and, in fact, I am looking at new locations to open a second location at the end of the year. My passion is fighting, but looking past fighting, I think my new passion will be fitness; help people reach their fitness goals and to help motivate people to be better and to work on their fitness goals. I’m RKC certified; I teach a kettlebell class at the studio and it feels great when you are able to help someone and they tell you, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t felt like this in years. I feel incredible. I feel so strong.’ Just hearing those brightens up my day. Every single day I step into the studio I take away inspiration and motivation. It’s good for me to help other people and it’s good for everyone to help other people.”

Having set himself up for his life after fighting, Castillo is free to focus on the task at hand: beating a surging Ferguson and fighting his way into the UFC lightweight title picture.

Danny would like to thank the fans and all of the people who have been following his career since day one, and of course his friends, family and team. Follow Castillo on Twitter: @lastcall155

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.