Danny Castillo, the Team Alpha Male fighter best known for dressing up at weigh-ins, gets to flash his trademark 'tuxedo' again Friday as he gets ready to fight Tim "The Dirty Bird" Means at UFC on Fox 8 Saturday night.
Castillo believes people should wear a tux on the most important days of their lives and he considers fight weigh-ins to fit into that category, noting to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour this week that if you don’t make weight, you don’t get to fight.
The Castillo (15-5) vs. Means (18-4-1) lightweight fight takes place on the FX prelims at the Key Arena in Seattle, before the FOX special begins.
The fight required a massive change in strategy, since Castillo was scheduled against Bobby Green, who pulled out due to an injury.
"It’s kind of a completely different match-up," said Castillo. "He’s (Means) a bit taller. He’s not as fast. He’s not as athletic. His striking is a little better. He’s not as good a wrestler. In many ways, he’s a completely different fighter. I’m sure he’s really fired up and motivated. Usually after a fighter loses, they get back in the gym right away and start plugging away. He took the fight on two weeks notice, but I’m sure he’s in shape and ready to go. After a loss, if you don’t change things up, you’re probably not going to make it in the sport."
Means had won nine fights in a row prior to losing a decision to Jorge Masvidal on April 20.
Castillo talks about loving his fighter lifestyle even though at 33 he knows it won’t last forever. He recently opened a Pilates studio in Sacramento, where he teaches a class in what he calls Kettle Combat: a mixture of Kettlebell training with a heavy emphasis on cardio.
"It’s kettlebells meets the Insanity workout, a mixture of cardio and a little weightlifting with kettlebells," he said. "I’m trying to get it (the term Kettle Combat) trademarked as we speak."
"I have a great mentor in Urijah Faber," he said. "I learned a lot from him and from being by his side. It was time to put my money somewhere that will bring money back."
The idea came from when Faber coached The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) last year and brought Castillo to Las Vegas to help out his team.
"We were in Las Vegas and pilates is really big there, and I knew Sacramento didn’t have one," he said. "I thought Sacramento would take to one of those hot pilates studios. Things started happening quicker than I expected and here I am today. We’ve been open seven weeks and we have 80-plus members. It also brought something to me that I didn’t expect: seeing people get better every day. At the beginning, the reason I did this was for financial reasons. But now, it’s very rewarding. It motivates me to see a full-time mother of two come every day and do classes.
"Me, I get to train and have fun and hang out with my buddies all day," he said. "The pressure gets to me sometimes. It’s like an extension of college wrestling. I have a bunch of teammates who are like brothers and every day I get to enjoy life."
But given his position as a mid-level fighter, he can’t afford to let up because he’s in a talent-laden division and he can be gone after a loss.
Castillo felt his back was against the wall his last time out when he faced Paul Sass, the British king of the triangle, on a Feb. 16 show in London, England. He was coming off a second round knockout against Michael Johnson and felt his job was on the line.
He outwrestled Sass for three rounds, winning a decision. Given that Sass, also coming off a loss, had made something of a name for himself and was cut after the fight, was a sign that it was very good for Castillo to have won.
"I don’t have a name, and in the UFC, two losses in a row isn’t good for anyone, especially me, a lightweight in a stacked division," he said. "There’s always pressure. There’s pressure to succeed. There’s pressure to represent the team. There’s pressure for me financially. I don’t make a ton of money, not that I’m complaining. I’m happy with the money I make. When I started in the sport in WEC, now I’ve got 15 fights under Zuffa, I started at $3,000 and $3,000. I’m plugging away, grinding. For me not to get half my money, and I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle, but it would suck for me to lose. My goal is to be top ten or the best fighter in the world. If I lose, it’s a huge setback for me. I’m coming off a win, but another loss wouldn’t be good for me. There’s always pressure, but it’s motivating pressure, not stressful pressure."
Castillo wasn’t happy getting the news that Green had pulled out, because Green and his friends had been harassing Castillo via social media to get in his head and build up the fight. It bothered Castillo enough that he actually blocked Green.
"Every time I looked on my time line, it was Bobby Green, or one of his buddies, or him thanking his buddies for talking trash on me," Castillo said. "I don’t have time for that."
He also had built up more motivation to face Green, noting that his fans and Green’s fans ended up going back-and-forth. "He said (to Castillo’s fans), `You just made it worse for Danny Castillo on July 27th.’
"You can say whatever you want, but eventually you have to be in the cage, but unfortunately, it’s not going to happen right now. Hopefully it’s a fight I’d have to have in the future. Hopefully we can do it in the future."
"It kind of sucks since it was a great fight for me," Castillo said. "There were some things on-line. He was tweeting me. I usually don’t respond to stuff like that. When fighters tweet me, it just kind of adds to the fires. I was really looking forward to it. It was one of those fights where I got a full camp to train for. We got coach Bang (Duane Ludwig), he dissected the film and we had a game plan."
The fact Dana White has brought up Green in a number of interviews for his performance in beating Jacob Volkmann on Feb. 23 in Anaheim, using him as a representative of how the talent coming in from Strikeforce was hungry and performing so well, was even more motivation for Castillo.
"His last fight was very impressive," Castillo said. "Dana White went backstage and shook his hand. I’ve been a fighter with Zuffa for four years. I’ve had 15 fights under the Zuffa umbrella and I’ve never talked to Dana White once. It would have been great to have beaten his boy and get some recognition. I don’t think he’d fake an injury and it sucks for him. In order to eat and pay bills, we have to fight. It’s going to be a rough few months for him because he doesn’t have the money coming in."
Team Alpha Male, consisting of Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez, Castillo and T.J. Dillashaw as its main members, have had a big 2013 thus far, coinciding with Ludwig being hired as the team’s head coach.
"I work so hard, so having a coach who works just as hard as me is one of he best feelings ever. I come to the gym and Bang’s already there. He’s studying films constantly. He’s texting me, sending me video footage of my opponent and sending me video footage of other fights close to my fight with Tim Means. He’s a good husband, a good coach, we’re fortunate to have him. We really lucked out. Having Duane is awesome and I can’t see myself training for anther fight without him."