Just two fights into his MMA career, Dillon Danis is having to deal with the toll the sport can take on the body.
Danis’s coach John Kavanagh confirmed on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show that the jiu-jitsu star-turned cagefighter injured his knee ahead of his bout with Max Humphrey at Bellator 222 last Friday. The result was still overwhelmingly positive for Danis and his team as he dominated Humphrey on the ground before finishing with a first-round armbar, but there was some concern that he might not make it to fight night after injuring his lateral collateral ligament a week before the show.
“Weirdly a common story,” Kavanagh said. “The last round of his last spar—in fact it was the last few seconds of the round. Actually, he went for the same technique that he won his fight with, but he got caught in a kind of funny angle and he heard a tear and he went got assessed and it turned out that he had a tear of his LCL. And I didn’t know whether it was going to happen or not, but I said I’ll come over anyway, so I flew in on Tuesday and you’re kind of like, let’s just make weight then. Let’s see how the next 48 hours go.
“We made the decision, if you’re going to take it and you lose then you can’t talk about it because you’re assuming you’re at a high enough level to compete. That always kind of bugs me, if someone loses a fight and then, ‘Well, I had this injury.’ I think if you win it you can mention it, but yeah, he did have a pretty bad tear in the knee.”
Because it appeared that Danis was able to easily defeat Humphrey, one could be forgiven for wondering just how serious Danis’s injury was. According to Kavanagh, a keen observer would notice that Danis was somewhat limited in what he could do even as he controlled Humphrey with his grappling.
“If you actually watch his fight, for jiu-jitsu guys out there they’ll see how little he was using his left leg,” Kavanagh said. “It was a lot of time with just one hook in, or if he put both hooks in he wouldn’t go to the body triangle, which would be his go-to move. So there’s a few positions that he couldn’t do what he would normally do. But he still did very well.”
Danis improved to 2-0 in MMA, with both of his wins coming by way of first-round submission. Just 25 years old, he’s performed as expected against competition with the same level of pro experience.
Kavanagh sees a lot of reason to be encouraged by Danis’s development, despite the fighter having less than seven minutes of total cage time so far.
“The takedown came pretty quick, but even his ground-and-pound style I don’t think we’d really seen that before. Very dominant takedown, dominant style ground-and-pound, good positioning, and then good awareness of listening to his corner. I still have to remind myself it’s his second fight ever. No amateur career, so little things like understanding that with 45 seconds to go I would pretty much always call for a joint lock rather than a choke because by the time he set up a strangle, people can usually hold, they hear the clicking going and they’ll hold on, whereas a joint lock is a quick submission.
“His awareness to know that that call was coming, then hear, and then follow through on it. It usually takes guys with a lot more experience to do the type of things he was doing in his second-only ever fight.”
More so than his performances, Danis has fans and media talking about him because of his brash personality that owes more than a little to the influence of Danis’s friend and training partner Conor McGregor. After beating Humphrey, Danis called for future fights with Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Those aren’t the first big names that Danis has challenged and likely won’t be the last. Kavanagh laughed when talking about Danis’s outlandish personality and explained that much of it is simply for entertainment.
“It’s almost getting to be a badly kept secret. Maybe I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but he’s such a nice guy. I’m so fond of Dillon. [My girlfriend] Orlagh is so fond of Dillon. We love having him over in the house, he’s a great guy.
“Maybe Chael was one of the first guys to have this kind of—It’s not that it’s not them, but it’s a blown-up, cartoonish figure of them. Definitely Dillon is very competitive and he likes talking and letting people know, but it’s a magnified version of that personality is there.”
Danis is currently on the mend, though Kavanagh couldn’t speak on the severity of the knee injury. The plan is for Danis to get a scan this week and then they will decide whether he needs time to rehab or has to undergo surgery.
“I was really hoping to get him on a run this year and get two or three even before the end of the year,” Kavanagh said. “Now that’s in question, so we’ll have to just wait.”