UFC lightweight Mac Danzig never liked Las Vegas. He found the fight capital to be a place that lacked a sense of culture.
The displeasure of Vegas were in Danzig's face when he was there training with friends in the weeks leading up to his fights. What he saw was a bad environment, and that's the last thing he needed before fighting for paychecks in the UFC's octagon.
"[Las Vegas] is completely devoid of any kind of culture," Danzig told Yahoo! Sports. "It really sucks to go to a place that's just sterile and has such bad karma like Vegas does."
Gambling, smoking, nasty weather and countless dirt lots make Vegas a less-than-comfortable training environment, according to Danzig.
Recently, however, the Ultimate Fighter Season 6 winner decided he'd change his surroundings for the better. Danzig's friend and fellow lightweight, Gray Maynard, moved to Santa Cruz, California in January, which opened up the opportunity for the two to train in a gym far from the lights of the Vegas strip.
Rooming with Maynard, Danzig trained at nearby San Jose's American Kickboxing Academy in the weeks leading into his April fight against Efrain Escudero. The result of training at AKA was a win at UFC 145, and the gym became "a home away from home," said the 155-pounder.
Training with the likes of Josh Thompson, Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold, Danzig finds a welcoming atmosphere with a sense of family at AKA. This is especially great for him since it was one of the things that was lacking when training in Las Vegas.
"I train with Josh Thomson and he literally tries to take my head off. And then after we work on sparring, he's showing my everything he can to help me improve my game. I appreciate that," he said.
The fact that he's just a part-timer at the gym doesn't matter, as Danzig feels the team unity. Fighters within its walls are always throwing out coaching tips, he said, and everyone there has been a tremendous help. A far cry from Sin City.
"It's a good learning environment," he said, "whereas in Vegas it's just every man for himself."
Apart from the improved training environment, Danzig's transition to AKA has come with an extra perk: dependable child care.
Maynard's long-time girlfriend watches Danzig's daughter, Nova, when he travels from his permanent residence in Los Angeles to Northern California for training. When he trained in Las Vegas, the scramble to find babysitters was frustrating, but he no longer runs into that problem.
Luckily, things are taken care of with 4-year-old Nova while dad goes to work.
"As long as that stays solid, I'm going to be able come up here and train more often," he said.
The training will come in handy for Danzig's UFC Macao fight against former Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi. A hard-hitting competitor, Gomi is capable of one-punch knockouts, but his opponent finds the Japanese fighter has little to offer in terms of versatility. This gives Danzig the notion that perhaps Gomi isn't as driven as he once was.
"His game is pretty one-dimensional," he said. "When you look at that, you question how motivated he is."
Gomi's recent years have shown that he's no longer a top lightweight in the sport, Danzig said, and his weaknesses in many areas have been exposed. But like most fighters do before their fights, Danzig isn't taking his opponent lightly.
"The Fireball Kid" still has a dangerous flame lit.
"The thing about him is the guys that have beaten him have been pretty high-level," Danzig said when breaking down his next opponent. "The way I'm training, I'm ready for one of the hardest hitters in the entire division."
With the fight taking place in a foreign land, Danzig expects to be in hostile territory. His opponent will be fighting much closer to his native Japan, which leaves the impression that fans will oppose him because of regional familiarity. But regardless of the environment on fight night, no place can be worse than Vegas, according to the 155-pounder.
"I don't have to go to that awful place anymore," he said. "I'm probably never going back to Vegas again."
Erik Fontanez is an MMA writer and reporter for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow Erik on Twitter at @Erik_Fontanez
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