Danny Roberts has got his ninth UFC fight this weekend as the Liverpool-based welterweight continues to try and climb the rankings in the biggest MMA company in the world.
So far, Hot Chocolate is an even 4-4 in the UFC, but 16-5 overall and this weekend he faces Russian Zelim Imadaev in Moscow for UFC on ESPN+ 21.
Facing a Russian on home soil is no small feat, but Imadaev did lose his UFC debut to Max Griffin and there has been a lot of talk about his behavioural concerns outside of the octagon in gyms and beyond.
talkSPORT got the chance to speak to Roberts, 32, ahead of his must-win fight on Saturday.
Hi Danny! First of all, talk us through accepting a fight on Russian soil against a dangerous young fighter?
For me, a fight is a fight and I’m not fearful of any challenge. I don’t need things to be perfect, I don’t need to be on home soil to have the confidence to go in there and do the job. I believe in myself and know what I’m capable of. It’s all about me, it’s not about a country, an enemy or foe – I just want to go and get jobs done. Elevate, make progress and produce great things for myself and my family.
Max Griffin had a lot to say about Imadaev after their fight and claimed he had been thrown out of a few gyms for being too aggressive and tried to fight him even before they got into the octagon. Do you know much about him and have you seen him yet?
I haven’t even seen the guy yet. Obviously, we’ve got UFC security and that here and I believe he can be problematic. I’ve got teammates over in Florida – Hard Knocks 365 – that told me about that. He’s been kicked out of a few gyms and he has an aggressive edge to him, very emotional. Now, it’s something that I know as long as my head is in the right place – which it has been – it plays into my hands. It’s something that I enjoy, because it brings the best out of me and takes me back to the roots of who I am, which is a gritty, determined, horrible guy. So it’s something that works hand in hand.
As far as all the crap that can go on beforehand, I’m not looking to get involved with it. We’re here to get paid, fight and for that competition so if he wants to be immature enough to do that, then that’s down to him. But yeah, I’m looking to avoid it at all costs and then when it comes to fight time we can throw down and he can try and do what he wants then. But, it’s not going to go his way.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go your way last time out against Michel Pereira back in May, what have you looked at since then to make sure you bounce back?
I’ve been mindful of certain things, certain aspects. I’ve put myself in uncomfortable situations, making sure that I’ve got areas covered where as far as physical attributes go, I’m covered. My mental game has never been a problem. Now, the last fight, I did pull that apart and try and analyse exactly what has gone on, positives and negatives. One of the biggest things that has always prevailed for me and made me stand out amongst the rest is my aggression, the fact that I’m a dog of war. So we had to tap back into that, realise who we are and that guy is going to come out on Saturday full swing. People are going to see it and enjoy because you know what? That’s who I am.
One man who did successfully bounce back from consecutive losses last weekend was a man you know, Darren Till. What did you think of it?
Yeah, it’s lovely. We get on well and I was happy to see what the guy had accomplished. Just coming back from what he had, a lot of people – again, statistics and fans out there and whatnot – have all the odds against you because they have you on the losing side, you know? But the guy came back, made himself proud, made the city proud and I couldn’t be happier for him. That was a fantastic win. And, again, I’m from the same city back at home in Liverpool so it’s good to see that there’s just a couple of guys from the same city trying to do something, trying to achieve the impossible, regardless of any previous outcome or negativity.
Till admitted after the fight that he had considered faking an injury to get out of the fight and he was terrified beforehand. What did you make of his brutal honesty?
I love that honesty. We’re human. We all have these little kinks in our mindset and it’s something we have to work on and we have to pay close attention to the reasons we think like this and the reasons we do have these insecurities. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m human and I’ve had that before. I got to bed, every night that I go to bed, I think about the guy that I’m fighting. When I wake up, I think about the guy that I’m fighting. I have an intimate relationship in my head with this guy where he just consumes my time. And with that comes negative thoughts as much as there is positive thoughts. The main objective for us as we get closer to the fight is to make sure that it’s the positive ones that are overcoming every negative thought.
So as I say, coming towards this fight in the past few weeks, I’ve made sure my sh*t is together and my mindset is in check and I feel strong, I feel like I’m a force to be reckoned and very secure in who I am and what I need to do.
Lastly, what have you got to do to beat this Russian on his own patch in Moscow?
He’s had one fight in the UFC and he lost it on points to Max Griffin. Griffin is a very technical kind of fighter, but I believe I have a lot more technique than that guy. He comes forward, he puts the pressure on. Now, with Imadeav, he’s very aggressive and I feel like that will play into my hands with the key traits we’ve been working on throughout this fight camp. So like I say, who he is as a fighter and from a personality standpoint, I’m looking forward to being able to put across my work ethic on this guy because I feel the way that he is and his style will play into my hands as much as it will be a fight.
Watch UFC FIGHT NIGHT: ZABIT vs. KATTAR exclusively live on BT Sport 3 from 5pm, with the early prelims available on UFC Fight Pass from 4pm.
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