(Danny ‘Aranha’ Mitchell mean mugging the camera at Total Combat)
From the humble mining town of Thorne, Doncaster, the burgeoning and fructuous career of Danny Mitchell (8-0) has gone from baby steps to giant leaps following a recent string of victories and the continuation of momentum that show no signs of slowing down. This past weekend at Knuckleup: Origins, Mitchell took his biggest scalp to date in the shape of Team England M-1 veteran Simon Phillips.
Phillips was an integral part of Team England’s success in their first foray into the M-1 challenge, reaching the semi-finals before being defeated by the eventual dominant champions; The Russian Legion. The team exploded onto the scene by dismantling the highly touted Japanese team 4-1 on their home turf, Phillips’ knockout of Hidehiko Hasegawa in just twenty seconds being one of the highlights. He was also victorious over Jonathan Leon of Spain, showcasing his variety of skills with a submission win.
Mitchell was aware of Phillips’ power and respected his adversary coming into the contest. So, when the first two rounds proved to be gruelling, it came as no surprise.
“Yeah. I knew he [Phillips] was going to be tough. He’s mega-experienced, fighting for the M-1 team this year in Russia and Japan. I knew I’d have my hands full.”
As the bout continued, Phillips’ skill set presented itself to Mitchell in manners he wasn’t expecting. This forced him to draw on the experience gained through training with high-level partners and brought to life the importance of cross-training for “Aranha”.
“He has really good judo, using his takedowns and holding top position well. He had me mounted and I gave him my back just to escape the punches and work my escapes. He hit me with a bit of ground and pound but nothing too heavy.
“When it got to the third, I knew it was close. I knew I either had to finish him or really dominate that last round and I knew it was going to be on the feet for me. He kept trying to clinch and was really strong with his underhooks. I’ve been training with the UK’s top Judoka at my weight and it felt like I was wrestling with him so I was actually prepared for it. I just tried to work to the Thai clinch and sink the knees in.”
The knees were ultimately successful, triggering the beginning of the end of the fight and giving an elated Mitchell the first knockout of his young, yet prolific, MMA career.
“It was my first knockout in professional MMA,” Danny told us, revealing that he doesn’t want to be known as a one-dimensional fighter. “I really wanted to make a statement in this fight and to stop a tough guy like Simon did that I think. It was my New Year’s resolution to knock someone out this year anyway, I’m bored of submissions now!”
With the impressive array of submissions Mitchell has on his record, eliciting taps from the more experienced veterans Lee Doski, Les Ojugbana and Sami Berik, he was fully aware that the general consensus amongst fans was that should he gain victory, it would come on the mat. A veteran of Boxing, K-1 and Muay Thai fights, however, it was not the case:
“Coming into it, I think people thought the only way I’d win was by submission. All my professional wins had been by submission or decision, and his losses tend to be submissions, but I was having success on the feet so I thought I’d stick with it.
“I’ve been working a lot on my striking. I don’t think most traditional styles work. I’ve been working a lot with a guy called Craig Burke, who’s going to be making waves on the heavyweight scene very soon.”
Danny expanded on his comments, backing up his campaign to become Doncaster’s Lyoto Machida.
“Craig is a Karate guy and I’ve been working a lot on that ‘in-out’ style of striking, it’s more elusive and works for me. We’ve also been working a lot on knees to defend the takedown, and we saw how that works at the weekend!”
A true fighter that wants to evolve and progress would never rest on his laurels though, and Danny is no exception. He rounded off a successful 2009 in December with the victory over Sami Berik on Bushido Challenge I and he returns to the promotion for another huge contest on April 3rd. Whilst he may be due a rest – running his own team and looking at expanding his career internationally – Danny possesses a fighter’s heart, and that fighter’s heart presses him to stay active and seek all the challenges available to him.
He will pit his skill set against another undefeated adversary in Eugene Fadiora (6-0), the Midlands man that made waves with his victory over Nathan Champ on BAMMA last June and continued his success when he stopped Bradley Scott with strikes in October.
Citing an undefeated amateur record on top of his perfect professional slate, Mitchell recognises that Fadiora is no walkover and the “someone’s zero has got to go” angle adds more fuel to the fire.
“He’s undefeated and I know he’s taking it really seriously. He’s training really hard and devoting all of his time to it so I know he’ll be in the best shape he’s been in and he’ll be bringing his ‘A’ game.
“He’s quite similar to me in some ways. He’s not your average Thai boxer, he’s quite in and out and hard to hit.”
Whilst he recognises the threat, that doesn’t mean that he is not confident. You don’t amass eight professional wins, largely against more experienced competitors, without carrying a sense of belief in yourself and knowing that the trade you’ve invested your time in so faithfully will set you in good stead when it’s time for combat.
“It’s a really good match but I think I’ve fought the better opponents overall. He’s a lot like me, but just not as good, I don’t think,” Mitchell concluded.
“I’ve never been so relaxed. Every fight I get more relaxed and I’m aware. I’m not hyped or having some big adrenaline dump. I’m calm and thinking about things,” Danny also noted, which is a frightening prospect when you consider how composed he has looked to date.
This composure, the skill set, the drive and the will to win have set Mitchell apart from the rest of the cast in the current pool of domestic welterweights. This is now bearing fruit as prospects in big promotions are starting to rear their heads now he has assumed new management with TNA Sports Agents. Sharing a managerial home with Joachim ‘Hellboy’ Hansen can only be a positive step, and even ‘Hellboy’ himself has noted, “this guy is going to be a great fighter.”
“I’m now with Jay Benjamin [of TNA Sports Agents] and he’s sorting a lot of stuff for me. There’s going to be some big announcements,” Danny divulged, whilst not being able to confirm anything. He did add that the direction could well be East, being linked with a lot of the larger promotions in the Orient.
“We’re looking at the Far East and one of the bigger promotions out there. There’s a few, but we’re at the stage where I might be able to pick from a few rather than just try and sell myself to one of them.”
This is the preferred destination for Mitchell, as a lifelong martial artist that pursues the sport for enjoyment, as opposed to financial gain.
“I like the Japanese fans, I like how they view fights. They like more fun and entertaining fighters,” he stated, before finally adding, “That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day; enjoyment. I think some people take it too seriously, this fighting game.”
Epitomising his laidback attitude, it is not surprising that the likeable and talented ‘Donny Boy’ is quickly gaining fans in the UK and internationally.
Expect big things from the Mitchell as the time passes, and make sure you keep an eye out for his next fight against Eugene Fadiroa at Bushido Challenge II on April 3rd.