UFC 204 can mean many different things for many competitors on the card. For some, it’s a chance at redemption. Others, it’s an opportunity to redeem themselves. For one Danny ‘Hot Chocolate’ Roberts (13-1), he looks at it as a homecoming. It may not be his home city, although home soil is a sight for one’s sore eyes.
For the past two years, Roberts has been flying back and forth between in Florida and Liverpool to train at his new home with the Blackzillians. The constant jet-setting was one that took time to adjust to, however the people in his circle and the aura surrounding him has only made it an easier settlement for him to become the best he can be.
“It’s been amazing to be around the athletes they’ve got out there,” Danny said. “From the gym facilities, professionalism, doctors, coaches, training partners – even the strength and conditioning, it’s a recipe for success. I get on with everybody in there, we have a really good connection.
“I’ve been over there to last eighteen months training now. I’ve made big improvements to my game in both physical and mental aspects. It’s been the perfect place for me to be. I’m trying to make a lot of people proud and that work needs to be done. I don’t mess around talking or hanging around streets. I need to be working and the calibre I’m training with is truly special. I love being back here, though and I’m sure the fans want to see me throw down.”
It’s no secret Roberts’ path since joining the UFC has been far from easy with fights versus Nathan Coy (16-8) and the ever gritty Dominic Steele (14-8) last time round. The welterweight is proud that his path hasn’t been paved with golden. In fact, that’s how he prefers it to remain. Having battles like this only serves as a confidence boost for Roberts.
“Dominic Steele was a very hard fight,” Roberts divulged. “I had some complication in the week prior to the fight. I don’t use it as an excuse, but illness is a genuine thing, especially when you’re weight cutting it is a lot to take into consideration.
“Ultimately it was very tough. Just to think that a couple of fights prior to ours, Dominic was sitting at heavyweight so as soon as he gets a taste of Hot Chocolate, he’s trying to throw me around everywhere. The grind was something that was a true test to me. My team and I overcome adversity and we got the job done.
“I’m ready for anyone. Honest to god, I could fight anywhere, any day and you know Danny Roberts is gonna put on a show. There’s nothing that really knocks my confidence or affects my mindset. I’ve had fourteen fights and I’ve boxed beforehand. It’s just another day in the office just like everyone else going to work. I’ve had anxieties and and I’ve toppled them, so I’m ready to show what I’m about.”
This last time Danny fought in Manchester five years ago, he was prepping to play his role in local UCC’s December ‘X-Fighter’ 8-man tournament at the Manchester Velodrome where he came up against eventual tournament winner Pavel Doroftei (17-3), injuring his knee and spending almost six months on the mend.
Fast-forward five years and Danny finds himself as a string welterweight prospect inside the UFC, returning for his first Mancunian battle since that fateful night and over the span of that time, Danny feels it has been an emotional ride to get to where to he finds himself in 2016.
“The last five years have been a rollercoaster,” the 170-pounder confessed. “I’ve had some ups and downs in my personal life. It’s no change from my upbringing, it’s no change from I’ve been cast into. I’m that kid that everyone expects to fail and I’m here to prove everyone wrong. It’s something I hold close to myself, being my own inspiration and that’s what’s got me to this point today, so I’m proud of the work I’m doing and that’s going to continue.
“It’s going to be electric on fight night. The Manchester Arena is a historic venue and I’m super excited about it. It’s going to be rammed from the start. It’s been awhile since I’ve fought on home soil and I’ve got a lot more to me now. I have far more substance and I’ll show that on Saturday.”
For ‘HC,’ UFC 204 was a vital card to be part of. It’s been a little over two years since his last fight in England – coincidentally in a fight that got him signing a UFC contract. It’s a culmination of many things for Roberts and it all adds to the potion he plans on revealing come fight night.
“It was always very important to me to get on this card and I’m blessed to be here,” Danny confessed. “It’s the pinnacle of my career and life right now, especially with my little boy being born. I got the call of my boy being born and getting in the UFC in the same hour, so my head rolled. To be in the UFC and to be fighting here means so much to me. I’ve got people from all over the UK coming down to watch me, so it’s going to prove on the night to be an amazing night.”
Come Saturday night, Roberts finds himself adjacent his latest challenge in the explosive and undefeated Mike Perry. True to Perry’s character, there have been words traded on social media, none however that Roberts seems shook by. For the Blackzillians man, Perry offers some challenges but none that seemingly threaten Roberts.
“I’ve said this a few times, but a fight is a fight,” the knockout artist explained. “People forget that sometimes because they get caught up in talking trash and the trash that Mike’s been talking has been exactly that – trash.
“His garbage has been something I haven’t let falter me or take me off the pedestal from what I’ve been doing. I know he’s going to try to finish me. He’s 8-0 and he’s hungry.
However all it’s done for me is motivate me and give me some sort of drive to really perform on the night, so Mike best be careful what he wishes for.”