The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Photo credit: Nick Shockey / nshockey.express@gmail.com
A letter from the editor
February 6, 2024

From wrestling at City College to fighting in the UFC

From+wrestling+at+City+College+to+fighting+in+the+UFC

More than 11,000 mixed martial arts fans filled the Sleep Train Arena Aug 31. to witness two hometown fighters compete. UFC Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw would defend his title in the main event and in the co-main event Danny Castillo took on Tony Ferguson in a Lightweight bout.

For Castillo, who was born in San Francisco and raised in Sacramento, being able to compete in front of so many friends and family members was a surreal moment.

“This means everything to me. Just having to be the co-main event in my hometown is something you dream about as a kid and I’m running with it,” said Castillo.

Castillo’s strengths are boxing and wrestling, according to the UFC 177 official program. He spent his college years on the wrestling team at Sacramento City College under the guidance of Panthers’ wrestling coach David Pacheco. Before that, he attended off-season wrestling practice at City College since he was 15 years old.

Castillo said he nearly had his dreams taken from him before they could become a reality. According to Castillo, activities such as illegally spray painting walls throughout Sacramento were leading him down a destructive path.

“For me the rush that I got was [doing] graffiti, it was running across those freeways, and I found myself on the wrong end of the law,” said Castillo. “The city of Sacramento came after me, and they gave me a felony [conviction] for vandalism.”

Castillo said he was helped through this period by the people around him at City College who cared for him and wanted to see him succeed in life. According to Pacheco, he visited Castillo in jail and fought for him to stay enrolled in classes so he could wrestle for the Panthers. Pacheco said he believed he was only doing his duty by helping Castillo.

“It’s our jobs as coaches to help young men get better and grow grow grow. Not just as athletes but as people and Danny has optimized that part of it,” said Pacheco.

Castillo said he looks up to Pacheco and is grateful for everything he has done for him. In fact, he still frequents the gym at City College to see Pacheco and use the team’s facilities.

“He’s always been so positive. He’s been a staple in my life, becoming a man. I owe a lot to that guy,” said Castillo. “I’m in there pretty frequently in the later parts of my camp because I go and get treatments in the training room.”

After turning his life around with wrestling, Castillo looked to mixed martial arts to further his wrestling career. In 2007 he turned pro. His record in the UFC is 7-3 and his overall MMA record is 17-6.

Castillo is also one of the founding members of Team Alpha Male, a MMA training camp based in Sacramento, headed by fellow UFC fighter Uriah Faber. Members of the camp include UFC featherweight No. 1 contender Chad Mendes, top-ranked flyweight fighter Joseph Benavidez and Dillashaw, the bantamweight champion.

“It’s awesome having a teammate peeking with you, that you have someone there with you to do every hard practice with and to push you in the gym. Danny’s intense. I mean we all are. Even when it’s supposed to be light sparring it turns into a fight just because everyone wants to get the better of everyone,” said Dillashaw.

The UFC 177 card had disaster written all over it when main-event challenger Renan Barao had to drop out of his bout against champion Dillishaw, due to health issues caused by his weight cut the day before the event. Two other bouts on the card were canceled as well. As if three fights being cut from the event weren’t bad enough, a UFC production truck caught on fire during the preliminary broadcast. Despite the multiple crises, the UFC 177 card was a night filled with exciting fights and finishes.
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“Tonight’s attendance was about 11,000 and the gate made over $777,000. I’m surprised we did so well,” said UFC President Dana White. “We only had to refund about 130 tickets.”

In the co-main event Castillo took on Ferguson in a clash of Lightweight contenders. Castillo was coming off of a victory at UFC 172 with a vicious second round knockout of Charlie Brenneman. He had also won nine of his last 12 fights. Ferguson was riding a two fight win streak and knocked out his last opponent, Katsunori Kikuno, in the first round at UFC 173.

The crowd popped with cheers for Castillo during the pre-fight introductions and the arena filled with “boos” when Ferguson was introduced.

The first round began with Ferguson landing a couple of leg kicks and Castillo trying to land a big overhand right. In the middle of the round Ferguson had Castillo deep in a D’arce choke. He held Castillo in the choke for about a minute and a half before Castillo could break free. When he did the crowd immediately went crazy. Castillo now in top position and in Ferguson’s guard landed a right hand before the round came to an end.

At around the 4:15 mark of the second round the crowd began to chant “Danny”. Ferguson continued to land leg kicks as both fighters looked to be slowing the pace. Ferguson landed a high knee before attacking one of Castillo’s leg. He lost his position and allowed Castillo to be in his guard once again. The two grappled back and forth on the ground before the second round would come to an end with Castillo again in top position.

Castillo opened up the third round by landing an overhand right. Castillo then landed a takedown. Ferguson was able to get back to his feet before being taken down once again. Ferguson stays active with submission attempts but Castillo used his wrestling to control Ferguson on the mat. Just before the fight ended Castillo locked in an arm-triangle choke but was unable to get the submission as he ran out of time. The fight ends and we go to the score cards for the judge’s decision.

The first judge scored the fight 29-28 for Castillo. The next two scored the fight 29-28 in favor of Ferguson giving him a split decision victory. When the announcement was made the crowd immediately erupted into “boo” chants.

Castillo tilted his head back slightly, eyes widened and jaw dropped as he listened to UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer declare Ferguson the winner.

“He landed a lot of leg kicks but I touched him up with my boxing. When we went to the ground I controlled him. I’m sorry, Sacramento. This is not what I wanted. I wanted the finish,” said Castillo.

Ferguson believed he had done enough to win the fight but was disappointed in his performance.

“I’m not happy. I left it to the judges and you’re not supposed to do that,” said Ferguson. “I threw kicks but he just laid there and didn’t do anything. I’m just mad I didn’t finish him.”

Castillo did not pick up the victory at UFC 177, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to hang up his MMA gloves just yet. He said he loves what he does, and it won’t be long before the former Panther is back at City College training for his next fight.

“I’ve been a Panther for over 18 years. I started my wrestling career there and I’m still there. I’m using the track. I’m running up those stairs at Hughes. That will forever be a part of me,” said Castillo.

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