"Obviously, I would have preferred an eight-week training camp," Downes told MMA Fighting on Wednesday. "But when you get the big call, you answer."
And answer, he did. The question? How about Chris Horodecki. In the Canadian's home country. On live TV. And yeah – with five days' notice.
Despite all that – and despite still getting his medical work in order on Wednesday before leaving for Edmonton – Downes, 6-0 with five knockouts on his short resume, said he trains to be ready for just such a call. For fighters grinding it out on smaller regional shows, that call is the equivalent of hitting the MMA lottery.
"Things have been so hectic that it hasn't really sunk in yet," Downes said. "You always stay ready. I've been on the WEC short list for a while just in case a situation like this should arise." And now that he has his opportunity, he'll look to make the most of it in his debut against Horodecki (13-2, 0-1 WEC), who is on the hunt for a rebound after a disappointing loss to Anthony Njokuani in his debut with the promotion at WEC 45 in December. Horodecki was scheduled to face Ed Ratcliff, but Ratcliff had to pull out of the bout with an undisclosed injury.
Downes, a Chicago native who trains in Milwaukee at Duke Roufus' Roufusport gym, said despite Horodecki's experience, and despite being at what would appear to be a big disadvantage in preparation time, he believes he'll be able to remain calm – and that his opponent has more reason to be nervous than he does.
"It's not really about fighting the nerves," Downes said. "They're going to be there no matter what. I'm sure the night before I won't be able to sleep because the sound of my own heartbeat is too loud. I just have to channel that energy into the blows I plan on giving him. All the pressure is on Chris. He has more jitters to combat than i do."
Downes prefers to stand and trade. Horodecki began his career with six knockouts in his first seven wins. But since then he's had five decisions and a submission. It's been more than three years since his last knockout. But Downes said he can forget about gameplanning for this fight.
"Every gameplan goes out the window once you get hit and the fight starts," Downes said. "I don't have enough time to really study him and perfect a method of attack. I'm just going to go out there and do what I do best. We'll see if he can handle it."
It seems, at the very least, that Downes has no shortage of confidence, despite an uphill battle. And he believes when the fight is over, he'll have put himself on the mixed martial arts map to a brand new audience.
"Fighters need fans to keep themselves relevant," Downes said. "More than that, though, fan appreciation heightens the pro fighting experience. It's why any entertainer chooses to stay in their profession. I know going into the fight I'll be the target. But after my fight, there are going to be a lot more Danny Boy fans. I'm going international!"
WEC 49: Varner vs. Shalorus takes place Sunday at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The main card, including Horodecki vs. Downes, airs live on Versus starting at 9 p.m. Eastern.