This Saturday, Danny “Boy” Downes will be making his UFC debut against hard hitting veteran Jeremy Stephens. Downes, who received his nickname due to his “boyish good looks” and Irish heritage, will be looking to make a name for himself as he trades leather with the former 3x knockout of the night winner. Sporting an 8-1 record, with 5 of his 8 wins coming via TKO, Downes has the ability and poise to spoil “Lil’ Heathen’s” night.
MMA Nuts’ James Cahilellis had the opportunity to speak with the Team Roufusport standout about his upcoming fight with Stephens, his start in MMA, and his lucky jock strap.
James Cahilellis: So is it Danny “Boy” Downes, or Dan “Danny-boy” Downes? And how did you end up getting your nickname?
Danny Downes: I usually go with Danny “Boy” Downes. I think Dan “Danny-boy” Downes sounds a little redundant. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. I’d like to say I got it because of my boyish good looks. I was at the gym one day, and I didn’t really have a nickname, and you always need a nickname. The guys at the gym seen me as the pale, skinny Irish kid that was really tough, and it just kinda stuck.
James Cahilellis: What made you want to pursue MMA?
Danny Downes: I just did it because it was something different. My parents never let me do Karate when I was a kid so when I was in College I was like “Ha, I’m going to go do this!” But then I just kind of got hooked. What it is for me is I like that challenge. Lots of other sports are great, but it’s something about being in the cage, whether its a kickboxing match or MMA. Pushing yourself to that [level] and trying to climb that mountain. Your in there just trying to win.
James Cahilellis: How did you find Roufusport and tell us about the camp?
Danny Downes: Google search. I was in my Freshman year at Marquette University and I was looking for a martial arts thing I wanted to do. Part of it too is I think I saw a K-1 fight on ESPN, and I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. It’s not just like regular boxing. I want to do that!” … So I checked out Duke’s website, and I liked the fact that Duke was a K-1 veteran. So I [went] down there, took my intro class and bought my membership. And I’ve been there ever since 2004.
James Cahilellis: At Roufusport, you train with a lot of high level Mixed Martial Artists. Pat Barry is know for his low kicks, Anthony Pettis is known for his “Showtime” kick, what’s Danny Downes known for?
Danny Downes: Ha. I’m known for giving into another Irish stereotype, and that’s having a bad temper. Not in the terms as I’m a jerk, but it’s that whole “I hate to lose” thing. Even when I first started doing MMA, a black belt would tap me out and I’d get pissed off and angry. It’s that drive of having to get better, and that’s what I’m best known for. I get the comparison to the incredible hulk, like “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”. I’m very nice but once I kick in that gear, you can see that look in my eyes.
James Cahilellis: Are we going to see the angry Danny Downes next week?
Danny Downes: Well see what happens. I’m usually pretty comical. The problem with the angry incredible hulk is that he’s usually kinda wreckless. Hopefully it’s doesn’t get like that. Usually when I get in that cage I’m a different person, even my mom says that. She says “I don’t like you when you fight, you just look so mean!”. I say, “Well mom, it’s kinda the point.” So I’m going to flip the switch and you’ll see the other side of me.
James Cahilellis: Any special rituals or superstitions you have going into a fight?
Danny Downes: I always get a haircut. That’s the one thing I do. I used to have a lucky jock strap but that got way to gross and dirty and I threw that out. So now it’s just a haircut.
James Cahilellis: You’ve fought twice before for the WEC, but this upcoming Saturday will be your UFC debut. Do you feel any extra nerves or pressure leading up to this fight?
Danny Downes: You know, the next fight is always the biggest fight of your career in a way. There is definitely a different pressure for it being the UFC. You always want to prove yourself. The last fight against Zhang [Tie Quan], I had in the WEC, and I felt like I had something to prove and I feel like I have a lot to prove in this fight. But still there’s nerves. I’d say they’re a little bit heightened but I wouldn’t say there is such a great difference.
James Cahilellis: Speaking of Zhang, at the last WEC fight before the merger, you had an impressive win over him. He ended up going to the UFC almost immediately while you waited almost six months to get your chance. Do you feel like you’ve been underrated by the UFC?
Danny Downes: Nah. I don’t think there was any hurtfulness on their part. I’m still young in my career and there is still a lot of work [for me] to do. I think a lot of other people are sleeping on me so it will be nice to show them what I’m really capable of.
James Cahilellis: Your facing a very dangerous UFC veteran in Jeremy Stephens. What if any changes have you made for this fight, and where do you see this fight going.
Danny Downes: You have to prepare for everything. A lot of people know him for his striking or his knockout power, but that guys a veteran. He’s capable of taking it everywhere. Even with my last fight with Zhang, we expected it to be a stand-up fight and it was a totally different thing when we ended up spending 95% of [the fight] on jiu jitsu. The best laid plans go to waste and you just pretty much have to do everything. [Taking the fight on short notice] I haven’t had a lot of time to game-plan but either you can fight or you can’t. I’ll go in there and show what I’m capable of.
James Cahilellis: Thanks Danny for taking the time out to speak with us. Any shoutouts you want to give, people or sponsors you want to thank?
Danny Downes: I just want to thank all the people that got me here: my coaches and teammates at Roufusport and especially my family and girlfriend Charissa for supporting me though all the ups and downs of my career. Last (but certainly not least) I want to give a shout out to Form Athletics, MMA Nuts, and Diamond MMA. Thanks everyone!