On Saturday, January 3, UFC lightweight Danny Castillo (17-7) will step into the octagon for his 20th fight under the Zuffa banner.

That’s more than Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, and many other high-profile fighters who have assisted in creating the fastest-growing sport on the market.

But even with an astonishing number of appearances, things haven’t always fell in Castillo’s favor. Take for instance Castillo’s meeting with Edson Barboza at UFC on FOX 9. It was one of the most dominant opening frames of Castillo’s career as he pummeled the Brazilian to shreds in what many considered a 10-8 round. Two of the three judges disagreed, resulting in a majority decision loss for the “Last Call”. Less than a year later at UFC 177, Castillo left with a sour taste in his mouth after dropping a close split decision to Tony Ferguson.

“It’s tough to swallow, not only the Ferguson fight, but the Barboza fight as well, Castillo told The MMA Corner. “I’m not questioning the judges, I’m just saying they were both really close fights. I didn’t think I lost either one of those fights. I’m not necessarily saying that I won both of those fights, but I for sure didn’t lose those fights. It’s tough, but that’s the risk you take when you play it safe. I definitely got to change some things up moving forward into this fight and into my career. Georges St. Pierre made a career out of doing exactly what I’ve been doing and had a bunch of title defenses doing the same thing I do. For me it didn’t work out, but just like everything in the sport, it’s constantly changing and I am learning to adapt to the different changes.”

Despite what some consider bad luck, Castillo keeps moving forward and will do so again when he headlines the preliminary card against Paul Felder (9-0) at UFC 182 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

Is there some added pressure that comes with being on arguably the most appealing fight card of the coming year? Maybe a little.

“Being the headliner of the prelims definitely comes with some responsibility,” Castillo said. “It’s my job to set the pace and set the tone for the pay-per-view card. I have an opponent that I feel like I’m better than him in all aspects. I’m going to go out there and take some chances and be exciting.”

Castillo is fully aware of the danger that presents him when he meets Felder on Saturday night. Felder has proved to be one of the more invigorating prospects in the ever-growing lightweight division. But after escaping his octagon debut with a narrow split decision over Jason Saggo at UFC 54, Felder showed several holes in his game that Castillo hopes to take advantage of when the two meet.

“I thought his debut was really close to a guy who was only fighting his second fight in the UFC. On paper, I think this is an opponent that I matchup really well with. His wrestling is really suspect and in terms of what he’s doing with his striking, there aren’t really a lot of knockouts on his record, but a few TKOs. It’s a dangerous fight because anyone in the lightweight division is tough. To get here you got to impress Joe Silva and the UFC. It’s really a dangerous fight for me because he’s a newcomer. If I don’t finish him in the first or second round, it makes me look bad. If he makes it out of the third round, he makes a name for himself,” Castillo said. “If he beats me, it’s extremely bad for my career and shoots him in the upper-echelon of the lightweight division.”

“I’m going to go out there and try to finish him early in the fight by mixing it up with my striking and my wrestling. I’m going to keep him guessing and come forward with the big right hand and see what kind of chin he has. I want to test that early and hit him so he knows exactly what he’s walking into. Once he sees my power, it doesn’t matter where I hit him, in the shoulder or wherever, he’s going to know how hard I hit,” Castillo said. “That’s going to change the outcome of the fight.”

Castillo has one mission on Saturday night—to have his hand raised one way or another. But regardless of the outcome, Castillo remains the same humble, down-to-earth guy who simply wants to enjoy the moment. If 19 fights under Zuffa hasn’t changed Castillo, Saturday night surely won’t.

“I’m just going to have some fun with this,” Castillo said. “I’m not going to worry about the money or anything else. I want to enjoy this week, I want to enjoy the walk to the cage, I want to enjoy Bruce Buffer screaming my name, I want to enjoy the fans, and I want to enjoy beating this guy up.”

 

All quotes were obtained first-hand unless noted otherwise. Follow @GarrettDerr on Twitter for the latest news revolving around UFC 182.