2001 Pan-American Champion
15x North American Grappling Association Champion
3x North American Grappling Association Superfight winner
3x Copa Atlantica Champion
Grapplers Quest Champion
Victory at Valley Forge Superfight winner
In this short interview, Danny will talk about his first professional mixed martial arts fight, some of the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu he's experienced in his own life, and his insights into training.
Hi, Danny. Just to start the interview off, can you give us some background information on yourself?
I'm 25 years old, born and raised in Philly. I'm 5 foot 8 and I compete at 160 lbs (walk around at 175 lbs).
Can you tell us a little bit about your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) background?
I've been doing BJJ for 10 years now. I am a purple belt and I got it from Renzo Gracie in August of 2000. During this time, I have trained with Pat Militich and his team, Sergio "Bolao" Souza, Jared Weiner, the Lehigh wrestling team, Gracie Barra, Brazilian Top Team, Team Behring, the Machado brothers, Fernando Vasconcelos, and many others.
You've obviously had a lot of success in competitions. You must've been very athletic growing up...
Haha, I am not athletic at all. I am not really strong or really fast. I just loved BJJ and trained very hard and got to where I am today. When I first started, I was a 220lb, 15-year old kid. Five years later, I had lost 70 lbs and won the Pan-Am Championships.
So you didn't play any sports in high school?
No, I didn't. I hated any sport with a ball.
You recently competed in your first mixed martial arts fight. Can you tell us about your training for that and how the fight went?
I moved out to Iowa for 6 months and trained with the famed Militech fight team. I trained 5 days a week, mornings and nights. I would train thai boxing on Mondays and Wednesdays, Jiu-Jitsu was Tuesdays and Thursdays, and cardio and weights in the mornings. I was in the best shape of my life for that fight and won by armlock in the second round. My opponent was a tough guy and I took some shots but the training paid off.
How important do you feel your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background was in your victory and in mixed martial arts competitions in general?
BJJ was what I won the fight with. It's my main style and without it, I'm not sure I could have won my fight. BJJ for MMA is very important. There is no way around it - you have to have it! All the best fighters train in Jiu-Jitsu, that says it all.
Have you ever competed against heavier people? If so, how did you do?
I have many times. I didn't win them all, but I have won more then I have lost! I like facing heaver opponents, it's a challenge.
Technique is everything in BJJ. This one time, I competed in the Grapplers Cup tournament and they had no one in my weight class. I entered the advanced super-heavyweight division for people weighting over 200 lbs. The first guy I faced was 6-2 and weighed 240 lbs; I armlocked him in just under 2 minutes. I lost the next match but managed to beat a guy that was 6 foot and weighed 225 for 3rd place. I weighed in at 145 lbs!
You have lost a lot of weight doing BJJ, 70 lbs you said. Have you noticed any other benefits to training?
Weight loss is one. Self-defense is another. Then you have discipline, which helps in life. Jiu-Jitsu teaches you that hard work solves a lot of problems. That is something that stays with you not just on the mat, but in day-to-day life.
Do you have any advice for people just starting out?
Drill a lot and master the basics. Watch a lot of videos (buy them from www.onthemat.com) and try to imitate what you see the top guys do in their matches. Take small steps and you'll improve.
Thanks for your time Danny. Any parting words?
I would like to thank my sponsors: Howard Combat Kimonos, who has been backing me up since I was a no name blue belt; OnTheMat.com for always giving me a place to stay in Brazil and hooking me up with the best BJJ videos; Cascagrossa for all best MMA gear - I love the sweatshirts they have. I would also like to thank all my good friends, who stuck by me through both good and bad, Julius Park, Phil Weslow, Dan Simmler, Amie Turton, Nelson Afanador, Joe VanBrackle and most of all, Mom.
Big thanks to Danny for his time. We'll be seeing a lot more of him at 88 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the coming months!