Sunday December 27, 2015– On November 6th, 2015 Daniel Straus reached the top in the featherweight division for Bellator MMA once again as he became the champion for the 2nd time in his career. Facing his rival Patricio Pitbull for the 3rd time, Straus knew that he needed redemption and he made sure that he would be fully prepared for their 3rd bout. With the first two fights going to Pitbull, Straus never lost hope or focus on winning the next fight between the two. Before we get there, I want to show the MMA world who Daniel Straus is in and out of the octagon. A champion and a Father, one of the most decorated Fighters in all of MMA history told me just who he is and what it took to get back to the top.
Born in Cincinnati Ohio, Straus didn’t have the easiest life growing up. With a few run in with the law at a very young age, and being on his own at the age of 17 a future champion’s life looked like it was going nowhere. After being released from prison, Straus was introduced to MMA by a high school friend from back in his wrestling days. Straus was a top of the line wrestler in Ohio. Some would say that he was one of the greatest wrestling in Ohio to never win a state championship. Having his background in wrestling really helped Straus get into MMA, Straus Joined a local gym called Vision MMA, their his career got started as her was taking some small fights to get his foot in the door. After about 2 years of being a professional fighter and mostly taking fights as a fill in for injured fighters, Straus got a fill in feature fight in Bellator MMA against Chad Hetton. After putting a beating on Hetton and getting the unanimous decision victory, Straus would become a full-time Bellator fighter as he would take part in their featherweight tournament. After making it all the way to the tournament finals, Straus was defeated by Patricio Freire. Even though he lost in the finals, Straus made a name for himself as one of the top contenders in the featherweight division. After earning a shot at the title at Bellator68, Straus was set to get a title shot against former champion Pat Curran. A broken hand would hold Daniel out for a while and delay his title fight, but after rehabbing and making it back to Bellator106 Straus beat Curran and became the Featherweight champion. In 2014 Straus would lose the title to Curran, and with a bunch of controversy around the fight, Straus knew that as champion he had to do his job and that was to defend the title. In January of 2015 Straus got another crack at Bellator gold as he faced Patricio Freire for the 2nd time, after a back and forth fight Straus lost the fight by rear naked choke. After losing to Pitbull for the 2nd time it really got to Straus, He really felt that he was the better fighter on that day. Even though that he did lose, he wasn’t going to make excuses. Going back to the film Straus said:
“It makes me motivated more than ever when I lose. I feel like it’s hurting my career, I got to focus on what I need to do from all parts of my game”.
Watching Straus prepare for the 3rd fight with Pitbull everyone saw a different side of the former champion. I told him myself that watching him watch back the 2nd fight really got me to notice just how much this guy needed to win. When the 3rd fight began Straus came out swinging and quickly took control of the fight, Pitbull was overwhelmed and Daniel was well on his way to becoming champion again. In the 5th round it looked like Deja vu was occurring as Pitbull started to make a comeback and locked in a rear naked choke. Straus was well prepared worked his way out the hold and finished the round. Straus was crowned champion after getting the decision victory, even with a broken hand Daniels hard-worked payed off and he was back on top of the featherweight division. I asked Straus what it feels like to be champion again and he said:
“Not too much has changed, I’ve been champion before and I don’t let it hang over my head. Anytime that I get in there as champion I don’t let it hang over me, I walk around like any other champion”.
The One thing that he said got me and many have probably heard it before but when he said it to me it really made sense:
“A champion doesn’t make the man. It’s the man that makes the champion. Fighting for a champion is one thing but fighting for a legacy is different”.
To see where Straus has come from, hitting rock bottom in prison to making a name for himself all the way to becoming champion not once but twice. Straus has reached his goal as champion but now the next step is building that legacy and with all that he has done so far that legacy is looking pretty damn good.
Regaining the featherweight title and defeating his enemy did come with some consequences, Straus broke his hand and had to have surgery to repair it. Straus has begun his recovery at the gym that he trains out of, one of the most famous MMA gyms around American Top Team in Coconut Florida. Even though he started at Visions MMA in Cincinnati, Daniel got a phone call from another one of his friends, UFC welterweight Jorge Masvidal. When the phone call came he made the trip out to Florida to give it a shot and things took off from there and it stuck. American Top Team is full of champions such as, UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks, and now himself I asked him how does it feel to be surrounded by other champions, and if they feed off one another he said, “We all learn from each other champions or not, the titles don’t make us we have to work with each other to get to certain places in are career”. While learning from other around him Straus continues his rehab the best way he can to work around his injury. Sticking to strength and condition to stay in shape is really the only thing he can do at this point, but when I asked him what’s the time-table for his return he said:
“I’m thinking maybe June for a fight or sooner but the number one thing is to make sure I’m healthy”.
I asked him with such a significant injury to his career like a hand were he can’t even punch what keeps you going?
“Grab motivation from all types of things like walking in the ring no question I’m going to win. I’m always going to win whether you hate each other or respect each other”.
Hearing something like that from a guy who finally reached the top of his game really shows that even with a significant injury the grind still continues, thinking about training nonstop or even all the way down to being back in the octagon ready to fight. I asked him a tough question and it’s something that I really didn’t expect to hear, I asked do you consider yourself the best featherweight in the world?
“I consider myself getting there”.
A guy who is champion of his promotion says that he isn’t the best and that there is more work to be done, shows that work never stops, training never stops and that no matter what he will strive to be the greatest of all time. To me that’s true heart not about the flash not about the gold but about the grind and how your hard work pays off. On his potential next opponent Daniel Weichel, Straus stated:
“He is a hungry guy who is coming back up in the division, and no matter how hungry he is I’m better than him in every way”.
No doubt in the champions mind he ready for whoever is next weather is Weichel or not when he is 100% he will be ready to defend the thrown. Outside of the octagon and training Straus has a little girl who lives back in Cincinnati, while he lives in Florida for his training he doesn’t get to see her as much.
“Being away from her is hard but this is the life that I chose and that comes with sacrifices”.
Whenever she is in the crowd watching him fight there is no doubt who his number one fan is as she loves to watch her daddy fight. That feeling is the best feeling in the world and he says at time it seems strange but he wouldn’t have it any other way. While one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history is injured, there is no doubt that he is fully focused and ready to come back and defend his title.
An amazing fighter and even a better father, Bellator MMA featherweight champion has one of the biggest hearts in the game. Come 2016, all the featherweights in the division don’t have a clue what’s coming.
By: Rick San Bartolome
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