Dillon Danis, Conor McGregor's grappling partner and close friend, signs with Bellator

Jiu-jitsu star Dillon Danis (L), along with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (C) and close friend Conor McGregor of the UFC (R), signed a promotional deal with Bellator MMA on Monday. (Getty Images)
Jiu-jitsu star Dillon Danis (L), along with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (C) and close friend Conor McGregor of the UFC (R), signed a promotional deal with Bellator MMA on Monday. (Getty Images)

Dillon Danis’ name isn’t as widely known as his good friend, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, just yet. But after signing a promotional deal with Bellator on Monday, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt will soon get the opportunity to make his own name.

Danis and McGregor are close friends, and Danis helped McGregor prepare for his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in August by working on his grappling.

McGregor’s trademark confidence has obviously rubbed off on Danis, who is confident enough in his grappling skills to smack UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones on Twitter.

And, like McGregor, Danis’ goals are anything but modest, even though he has yet to have an MMA fight.

He’s proud of his friendship with McGregor, but Danis, a black belt under Marcelo Garcia at Alliance New York, wants to forge his own name in MMA.

“I want to fight the best, just like Conor does,” Danis told Yahoo Sports. “We’re different people, though we’re very like-minded. We set high goals and we aren’t afraid to try to achieve. I feel he’s the best ever, in my opinion, and so if people want to compare us, well, how could it be bad if you’re a basketball player to be compared to Michael Jordan? That’s essentially what people would be saying if they compare us.

“I obviously respect what he has accomplished and will accomplish in the future. He’s incredible and the aura of confidence he has is amazing. He’s a champion for a reason. But I want to go down my own path and do it my way.”

Danis said he will start as a welterweight, but eventually hopes to fight at lightweight and, like McGregor, hopes to be a two-weight-class champion.

Bellator president Scott Coker, one of the sport’s finest talent evaluators, has taken to stockpiling young fighters who are elite in a specific discipline and hoping they can become MMA stars.

He’s already signed high-level wrestlers like Ed Ruth, Aaron Pico, Joey Davis, Tyrel Fortune and Jarod Trice. Adding Danis from the jiu-jitsu world will give him another star to try to develop.

“Look, when we were building Strikeforce, we signed guys like Daniel Cormier, Tyron Woodley, Ronda [Rousey], Luke Rockhold, people like that, and they all developed into stars and pretty good fighters, I’d say,” Coker said. “I want to use that old Strikeforce philosophy with Bellator: Buying the best free agents and building from the top down and signing these young guys who excel in one discipline of the martial arts, whether it is wrestling or jiu-jitsu, taekwondo or traditional karate, and then building from the bottom up.

“A guy like Dillon, with such high-level jiu-jitsu, whenever a fight goes to the ground, he’s going to be a serious threat. He’s going to have to master the stand-up game and everything else, but what I’ve found over the years is that when you take a guy like this, who has competed all over the world in big events, they’re calm and relaxed and they’ll develop if you push them along and nurture them the right way.”

Danis doesn’t lack for confidence. In January, when Jones was entering grappling tournaments, Danis didn’t hesitate to tweak him on social media.

Danis said he doesn’t have an exact date for his MMA debut, but expects it to be toward the end of the year.