Raymond Daniels hopes kickboxing success translates to MMA

One of the faces to keep an eye out for at the Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson event in San Jose on Friday is undefeated kickboxer Raymond Daniels, who will be making his mixed martial arts debut.
As the captain of the championship-winning Los Angeles Stars squad in Chuck Norris' World Combat League, Daniels would often steal the show with his dazzling knockouts and ease in which he would dominate his opponents.
MMAFighting.com spoke with Daniels on Wednesday to talk about his transition into mixed martial arts.

MMAFighting.com: How is training coming along for your MMA debut?

Raymond Daniels: It's going really good. Been working hard on my ground game. Trying to definitely make myself an all-around fighter.

MMAFighting.com: What led you into wanting to move into MMA?

Daniels: Just really thought it was the right time for me to make the move to MMA. Been doing stand-up, boxing and WCL, things like that. And MMA has grown so much as a sport. The fan base is almost bigger than boxing. And I love the martial arts, so it's just another aspect of martial arts.

MMAFighting.com: How long have you been considering this?

Daniels: I've been considering the move for quite some time. Been a couple of years now. Things didn't pan out accordingly to how I needed to -- I was thinking about doing it about two years ago. Now is the time for me to make that move.

MMAFighting.com: Can you give us an overview of your martial arts background.

Daniels: I'm a second generation martial artist through my father Frank Daniels. I studied in American Tae Kwan Do, Kempo, Shotokan... I'm a sixth degree Black Belt. Been training in martial arts for twenty-three years.

MMAFighting.com: I think the question everyone wants to know: What is your experience on the ground?

Daniels: My experience on the ground is... I work a lot on ground defense. I prefer to keep it on my because that's where I feel best suits my style of fighting. But I've been training on the ground basically my entire life. I just haven't been doing it on a competition level. Now it's just honing my basics back and making sure I'm able to protect myself and do the things I want to do on the ground.

MMAFighting.com: For anyone who has seen your WCL fights, they are going to want to make sure a fight with you goes to the ground right away. How much wrestling was incorporated into your karate training?

Daniels: It not a huge part. As far as my jiu-jitsu, wrestling and things like that. That wasn't a big aspect of a lot of my martial arts training. Maybe about ten percent of all the training I've done has been on the ground. Most of my training has been stand-up.

MMAFighting.com: Who have you been training with for Jiu-Jitsu?

Daniels: I've been having a couple of people come up and work with me. I've gone down to Erik Paulson's gym, starting to work with him on my ground game.

MMAFighting.com: How long have you been training with Erik?

Daniels: I went down there maybe a couple of weeks ago. He has a whole lot of knowledge and I'm just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can there.

MMAFighting.com: How is that coming along?

Daniels: I believe it's going well. Been working a lot on my ground defense. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised that I'm a lot more comfortable on the ground than what a lot of people probably believe that I am.

MMAFighting.com: Strikeforce refers to you as the second coming of Cung Le. Do you think the comparisons are valid?

Daniels: It's great for Strikeforce to put me up [there with him], but honestly, I haven't done anything. I haven't proven -- Cung is a great champion right now. I think some people have a lot of expectations for me but in all honestly, I haven't done anything to be compared to him right now. I'm just trying not to put any undue pressure on myself and try to live up to anyone's reputation or anything like that. I just try to go out there and give it my all and do my best. I mean it's an honor for them to put me in a category like that but I haven't accomplished the things Cung has accomplished.

MMAFighting.com: You and Cung Le are those rare fighters who can incorporate flashy kicks into MMA. Why do you think very few fighters have the ability to effectively throw stylized kicks?

Daniels: That's why I think a lot of people compare me to Cung, because we have a similar style in that we throw flashy things. A lot of people like to be safe. Those are high yield techniques: throwing a hook kick, or an axe kick, or a spinning hook kick or a spinning back kick. They take a lot of difficulty and if you make a mistake, in MMA, and you miss and fall and slip, you can be in a lot of trouble. I know for myself, I come from a traditional martial arts background where we learn how to throw those kicks correctly. Different guys come from different backgrounds.

MMAFighting.com: You'd consider these unorthodox kicks as one of your major advantages over the average fighter?

Daniels: Yeah, I think people consider it an unorthodox style because it's not what they're used to seeing. It provides [a certain] amount of difficulty for my opponent because they're not used to seeing attacks come from different angles. It's played to my advantage in all my full-contact fights.

MMAFighting.com: What do you know about your opponent, Jeremiah Metcalf?

Daniels: Honestly I don't know a whole lot about him. There wasn't a whole lot of footage on him or anything like that. He's has an 8-4 record so he's got more MMA experience than I do coming out for my MMA debut. I think it's going to be a good test in ground for me to get me in there and get me with someone who is experienced so that for my next fight will be even stronger. I'm really looking forward to him. Like I said, I don't know too much about him, so there's not too much I can really say, I'm not going to worry about what he's going to do. My goal is always to make him worry about what I'm going to do.

MMAFighting.com: You're certainly not taking an easy opponent for your first fight. Are you the type of fighter that'll fight anybody regardless if it's an advantage or not at the time?

Daniels: I'm a fighter. I fight, it's what I do. Like I said, he is seasoned, and I am up to fight him. Everyone is just a man and obviously I have to work my way into it, but I'll pretty much fight anyone. To me It really doesn't make a difference. I definitely want to step up and fight the top guys and that's the only way I'm going to truly test myself and see how good I really am and can become.

MMAFighting.com: What are your thoughts on fighting inside a cage (Strikeforce utilizes a cage) instead of a ring or a circular platform like the WCL?

Daniels: Fighting inside of a cage I know is going to be a lot different. I've worked and moved around a little bit in the cage. The cage is still a very big place. It's pretty hard to corner people, but you can get them up against the cage and use that to your advantage. It'll definitely be a new experience for me to get in the cage and fight in there so I'm definitely looking forward to it. Most of my experience comes from either the boxing ring or either the WCL.

MMAFighting.com: What is your status as a kickboxer? and with the WCL?

Daniels: We just finished the WCL season, which was last year, our team ended up winning the WCL championship. As far as the kickboxing, I still do the kickboxing thing. It's just not as popular as the MMA, so that's why I'm looking to make the move over to MMA. As far as the WCL, I would still like to represent my L.A. Stars team next season. But it depends if I have fights and things like that. I'll cross that bridge when it comes.

MMAFighting.com: But ideally you want to do MMA full-time?

Daniels: Yeah, ideally, I'll be going into MMA full-time.

MMAFighting.com: Just from watching your videos on Youtube and the WCL, I know a lot of people are going to be interested to see how your style can translate to MMA. Do you have any words for the fans that followed you throughout your career and the potential new fans when MMA viewers catch you for the first time on Friday?

Daniels: I'm very, very excited to go out there. I have a lot of people that are looking forward to seeing me out there and some people have high expectations of me and some people think I'm going to be beat down really bad... But I appreciate everybody's support in every venue that I ever fought in, whether it's my kickboxing or my WCL stuff. I'd like to thank everybody for the support and I'm going to go out there and do the best I can.

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