MMA fighter Mac Danzig is, by any standard, a unique sort of person. The vegan pro fighter is one of the most experienced contestants on the current incarnation of Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter. At times appearing angry and misanthropic, and then at others a lover of nature and insects, he’s nothing if not intriguing.
Recently he sat down with CraveOnline to talk about the show, his career, and his long, winding road to the UFC.
CraveOnline: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Mac. I know a lot of people probably want a piece of you right now.
Mac Danzig: No problem. I’ve been really busy and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many calls and emails all the time. I’m trying to keep a handle on it but I’m really not used to this.
CraveOnline: I’m sure it must be pretty hectic. Did you anticipate that being on The Ultimate Fighter would change your life this much, this quickly?
Mac Danzig: I did. I’ve known a lot of other cast members from previous seasons. I’m pretty good friends with guys like Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard, and Andy Wang. I knew what they told me and so I had an idea of what to expect, but you don’t really understand what it’s going to be like until it happens.
I’m a pretty private person, but I did this for my career. It was a step in the right direction. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not the kind of person who indulges in the type of attention that comes with this. I just like fighting and training and I was trying to put myself in a spot to help my career. I anticipated that it would change my life, but I didn’t really know how much it would change things.
CraveOnline: Let’s talk about you being such a private person. At times on the show you’ve made comments to suggest that you’re almost disdainful of the whole process, like you were upset that you had to go on this show in order to get into the UFC. Is that an accurate description of how you felt about it?
Mac Danzig: I feel bad that I reacted that way. It was just a negative way of looking at things. The problem was that it was hard to maintain a positive attitude on that show. There were some good guys there, but I was also surrounded by guys who I wouldn’t normally choose to be around. Some of them, I don’t even know what they were there for. Maybe they were just there to be on TV and screw around and try to fight.
You’re always going to have some people like that on a reality show, but it just seemed like the percentage was a lot higher this time. I never meant to be disrespectful, but it was just that I was very serious about the position I was in and I was trying to win, and there were more than one or two guys there who were just along for the ride. It’s difficult for me to respect that.
There were definitely times when I wondered, what am I doing here? But I had friends who helped keep my mind right. You could see it in one other guy on (Matt) Serra’s team, George Sotiropoulos. He was in a similar position to me. He was very serious and wanted to work hard and he had these guys who expected him to be an alarm clock for them. I didn’t know that stuff was going on at the time, but when I saw the episode I knew how he felt. There are always guys who are serious and guys who aren’t. The guys who aren’t just get in the way.
CraveOnline: Now that these episodes are airing, are you absolutely glued to the TV each Wednesday, anxious to find out how it came out?
Mac Danzig: I was a little more worried about it at first. I think the worst part is over for me, but you never know what they’ll show and what they won’t. They’ve already chosen not to show quite a few things that I thought for sure they would. On one hand I’m a little concerned about it, but on the other hand what’s done is done and they’re going to show it or they’re not.
The one thing that I really regret was the way I kind of went off on Blake. I was angry and it wasn’t even at him, really. The way that I went about it wasn’t cool and if I could edit out anything it would probably be that. But hey, I did it and everything you do gets filmed, so that’s that.
I get an advance copy of each episode one day before it airs so I can do a little write-up, like a blog I’m doing for Spike TV. Even if I might have done some things I’m not proud of, I know who I am. I can’t help what other people are going to think of me now.
CraveOnline: On the show you come off as something of a misanthrope. Do you think of yourself that way or is that just the result of reality show editing?
Mac Danzig: I have misanthropic tendencies. That’s just part of my personality. Just about anybody has said, at one time or another, ‘Man, I can’t stand people.’ But I actually kind of do feel that way.
I’m a good person and I have a lot of friends, but when it comes down to it I like to be alone and I like nature, so when you stick me in a house with fifteen other guys who have very different personalities, that brings out more of the negativity in me. I’m not saying that I’m better or smarter than they are, but the producers put all those people together on purpose to create conflicts. I don’t hate human beings. It’s just that I would rather be by myself most of the time.
CraveOnline: The show kind of dwelled on you being a vegan and loving animals, even insects. Your personality seems pretty atypical for a fighter. How did you get into this line of work?
Mac Danzig: I don’t know. It’s just something that always appealed to me. Even growing up as a kid I always admired the fighting arts. Boxing was something I followed closely when I was younger. Even the UFC, I used to watch it before I ever started training and it was one of those things where I said to myself, ‘You know, I think I could do that.’
I liked the idea of the training and of dedicating myself to this one thing. It’s one-on-one competition and I really like that. You’re not reliant on anyone else. That’s what appealed to me from the beginning. It’s just you out there.
CraveOnline: After fighting for years in so many organizations and being really successful, why did it take so long for you to get in the UFC, and why did it take this reality show to do it?
Mac Danzig: When I first moved to California to train full-time, I was on a good winning streak and I felt like I was probably seven or eight wins away from getting into a good organization. But things don’t always work out the way you plan. I didn’t have good management and I took some bad fights I shouldn’t have. I had situations where I trained full-time, twice a day for six months, and then I wouldn’t end up getting a fight.
Back when the first season of The Ultimate Fighter started they weren’t sure what weight classes they were going to feature and I applied for that first season. They told me they were interested but then they ended up using middleweights and light heavyweights. By the time the next couple seasons came about I had kind of lost interest in doing it.
I got wrapped up in the King of the Cage organization when I was first starting and I was dumb and signed a contract with them because I didn’t know any better. That contract really held me back when the UFC and IFL and other legitimate organizations were interested in me.
Things have never really come easy to me. I see a lot of these guys making waves in the UFC with something like a 6-0 record and sure it looks good, but are they ready to fight for a title within a couple fights? Probably not. I think time is ultimately on my side.
CraveOnline: Seeing the show now and getting a sense of how things were on the other team, do you ever wish you could have been on Matt Serra’s team? Did you get a chance to learn from him at all while you were there?
Mac Danzig: Going into it I never had any strong feelings about Matt Hughes or Matt Serra. I knew both guys would be good coaches in their own ways and both would be different from me in their own ways. I’ll be honest with you, I was expecting Serra to pick me second after Joe Scarola, but he didn’t. I was just there to win so I didn’t care too much.
I never really got to train with Serra or anybody on his team after that first day of evaluations. After that we were never in the gym at the same time for anything other than the fights or the weigh-ins. But even though our team had a losing streak I would much rather have been around the guys we had than some of the guys they had. It’s better to be on a team that has to deal with some losses than a team that has three or four complete imbeciles.
CraveOnline: Matt Hughes seems to be coming off as kind of a jerk in this season. Do you think that’s accurate? What were your feelings on Hughes after the show?
Mac Danzig: It’s hard for me to judge Hughes. He was kind of up and down, like the rest of us. The entire experience was an emotional rollercoaster for all of us, even the coaches. I really didn’t like the way he handled his coaching when we started dealing with the losses, but I can’t judge him for that. He’s only human and everybody deals with stuff in their own way.
I mean, I flipped out on Blake and treated him poorly for no real reason, so there were times when I didn’t deal with stuff in the best way either. He may have let his rivalry with Matt Serra cloud his judgment and some of those practices were really negative and made me not want to be there. But he also has good sides to him and is very caring.
He wanted to win and he’s very competitive. Maybe he’s a better fighter than a coach. I guess that’s the best way I can say it. I still don’t really know him. The environment of the show was a synthetic environment. They call it “reality” because it wasn’t scripted, but it wasn’t real either. I have no vocabulary to explain how strange the whole experience was.
CraveOnline: Thanks for talking with me, Mac. It’s been every bit as interesting as I expected it to be.
Mac Danzig: Hey, no problem, man. I just want to say that no matter what happens I’m here to stay. Wins and losses will always happen, but I’m here for the long haul. I finally have a chance to make a living out of this and I’m going for it because I’m tired of being poor.