Ahead of Bellator 222, Dillon Danis gives his side of the UFC 229 brawl, sees little to fear in opponent Max Humphrey, and says he’d rather be hated then have fans be indifferent.
New York, NY — If we’re being honest, there’s two sides to Dillon Danis. An outspoken, brash figure online and on the mic, Danis has often been compared to SBG Ireland teammate Conor McGregor. It’s an association that instantly makes him a target among the often belligerent MMA fan base. Yet the other side, on display at times during the Bellator 222 media day on Wednesday, is a more humble figure. Answering questions honestly and frankly, without a hint of self-promotion.
At least until later in the interview. It was a media day, after all.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible not to ask about the events that transpired last fall, at UFC 229. Danis was the center of a storm that erupted at the T-Mobile Arena when lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov flew out of the octagon to attack him. Danis, of course, was there to support teammate McGregor. Nurmagomedov had just won the fight. The action should have been over.
It wasn’t. The Dagestani fighter nearly sparked a riot to get at Danis. Asked for his side of the incident, Danis admitted that it’s hard to talk about, because of how much was going on.
“It all happened in the moment. All of a sudden I’m looking up, I saw one of my close friends lose, I was just in shock, then all of a sudden, just mayhem,” he recalled. “I kind of sensed something was going to happen during the fight.” The bout ended in the fourth with Nurmagomedov winning via a neck crank. “In between rounds, and during the rounds, [Khabib] was giving us dirty looks, or giving me dirty looks, and kind of making weird gestures towards me,” Danis explained. “So I kind of felt like that, but even the Diaz fight was kind of like that, but after, it was cool. So I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure. but it was all kind of just mayhem.”
Danis got a suspension of seven months, and whether you love him or hate him, it’s hard to imagine why. The Nevada Athletic Commission claimed it was for unsportsmanlike conduct, because he had to be restrained after the attack. Which, despite early reports, was unprovoked. Khabib Nurmagomedov himself later admitted that he attacked Danis only because he didn’t want to assault McGregor’s other coaches, because they were too old.
“I almost got more time than him for jumping over the cage,” Danis pointed out. He doesn’t believe he should have been suspended at all, frankly. “I wasn’t the one that jumped over the cage and attacked someone. You know what I mean? It wasn’t like I jumped in the cage. Imagine that. If I jumped in the cage, I’d probably be banned for life or something.”
“I didn’t even say anything to him,’ he finished. “Obviously it’s annoying, but I’m kind of over it now. It happened and I dealt with it, I’m just kind of moving forward.”
Moving forward means coming back at Bellator 222, a huge card for Scott Coker’s promotion. It all goes down at Madison Square Garden on Friday, and Danis will face Max Humphrey, a 3-2 fighter with a lengthy amateur record.
“I feel amazing about it,” Danis said of the pairing. “Fighting a guy that’s sloppy and flat-footed coming forward is easy for me. I’m too technical, I’m too good on the ground, and it’s going to be a good night.”
So why does Dillon Danis feel he gets so much hate? He’s far from the only fighter to self-promote, after all.
“I think it’s just because I say what I want, when I want,” Danis suggested. “I think lot of fighters kind of hold back, they just say what people want to hear. I just say what I feel.”
“Sometimes I’m in a good mood,” he added. “Sometimes I just say whatever I’m feeling. I think that kind of pisses people off. But I’d rather be hated on and stuff like that, then be like ‘no one cares about you.'” Danis gave Demetirous Johnson as an example. “If he was fighting, [people would say] ‘I’ll catch the replay, or ‘I’ll see it on the blogs after.'”
It’s that sort of response that led to Mighty Mouse, arguably the greatest fighter of all time, being expendable to the UFC. “When I’m fighting, everybody’s like ‘man I want to see that guy get knocked out’ or ‘I want to see him submit someone,'” Danis said. Having people hate you, “that’s the best problem to have in a sense.”
As for Conor McGregor, Danis believes you will see him fight again. “I believe so. Knowing him, knowing how much he loves it, and seeing him when he’s training, I believe so. I think the Khabib match is inevitable. That has to happen. But there’s no rush. He doesn’t have to rush.” As Danis sees it, the UFC needs McGregor more than he needs them.
Hitting the same levels as McGregor in Bellator, meanwhile, is not what Danis is focused on. Which might surprise some. “That’s the goal, but that’s not my mission. That comes with everything. I play the game really well, and I know how to get people talking and I know how to start controversy. I’m really smart with this game, I’m on the fast track. I have a bigger following than probably most of the guys in the UFC.” Okay, so maybe he’s not always humble.
Bellator 222 takes place Friday, June 14 at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.