After a short layoff, Danny Roberts is back in the mix of the UFC welterweight division and he's promising that he's going to be better than ever when he returns later this year.
Fans last saw Roberts at UFC 204 last October when he was involved in one of the fights of 2016 with Mike Perry in Manchester, England. After an epic back and forth contest where both men threw everything but the kitchen sink at one another, Perry wound up on top and finished the fight in devastating fashion with just twenty seconds remaining in the third round.
Fixed up and ready to go
As you can imagine, Roberts was crestfallen by the loss and to make matters worse he suffered some horrific injuries breaking his orbital bone and fracturing one his left eye socket. After taking some time away to undergo surgery to place two plates in his face, the Londoner is back in the gym and ready to fire on all cylinders.
"I'm back in training now and I've been back for the last four weeks," Roberts said. "I'm feeling renewed and refreshed and I think the time off has done me a lot of mental and physical good. It has kind of reenergized me to get back out there out and have a new start. I've had a bit of a layoff because of the injury, but for no other reason. It's been good to have that time to experience the other side of life, the family aspect and just appreciate doing what I'm doing. It's relit the fire again.
"I've got a little bit of nerve damage in my face, but apart from that it's all good. I kind of looked at in numerous ways with how it obviously kind of happened and how injuries occur within the sport and do you know what? I've competed in over twenty MMA bouts now and this is the first real injury I've ever had--I should really count myself lucky."
Realizing the pressures of fighting at home
Having had plenty of time to sit around and dwell on the fight, Roberts feels he's finally come to terms with the fact he let some of the emotions of the event get to him. Despite not being the man to have his hand raised on the night, Roberts knows there are several positives to draw from his performance and his first experience performing in front of his home fans on the biggest stage.
"After the fight I kinda realized that I was playing up to emotion a little bit," Roberts said. "There were a few added pressures heading into the fight that got under my skin you know. I kinda realized that my energy was wrong and I was too focused on going in there and finishing the fight and I know that was wrong. I've kinda taken away from that.
"Apart from that I look at the performance, my attitude, my training camp--everything about it, every other single key aspect was perfect and was spot on. I can't fault any of that do you know what I mean. Like I say, it was just a few little key aspects, playing up to the wrong pressures and the wrong emotions and energy definitely."
Perry beef is water under the bridge now
Having been involved in plenty of back and forth in the media prior to his fight with Perry, Roberts said the two hadn't spoken since. Regardless, the British welterweight said it was all water under the bridge now and that he had little doubt the two had respect for each other now they'd settled it in the Octagon.
"No, we've not had any interactions since the fight," Roberts said. "Obviously we had the fight and it ended the way it ended. I think we had a little respect shown after the fight and that was it. I've not spoke to him since and even though it went the way that it went, I've not sat on it and looked at it too much because I've tried to take myself out the circle a little bit and see things from a different perspective.
"I'm not the only one that's been finished--there's more than a few people I've done that too. It's something you just can't dwell on too much because if I do it will stunt my growth as an athlete. I've swiftly moved on from the whole situation that we had, but like I say, I can't look pass the fact that I got caught up emotionally and that's one thing I'll be taking away with me. Apart from that, a fight is a fight and we're all fighters in the game to do the same thing. I've moved on, he's moved on. Of crouse I'm disappointed I didn't win, but I think we can both be proud of the fight--we showed we're both warriors."
2017 will be a big year
With the past now behind him, Roberts is ready to kick on with 2017. Having had plenty of time to recover from injuries, rebalance his family life and refocus mentally, the former Cage Warriors man feels better than ever and is confident that in 2017 he will make big inroads on the top 20.
"I'm planning to have a big year this year," Roberts said. "I'm looking to have more fights with the UFC and just do some massive things. I've got some personal things that I want I want to establish within the UFC and the UK MMA scene as well. I'd like to think I'll be able to come over to the UK sometime later this year to show my skills and I don't plan on taking any steps back now.
"I've said I'd like to fight in May and I've been speaking with my management and coaches and stuff. With me having the layoff due to the operation, I had to sit still because my eye with the blood vessels at that, it was damaged at the back so I had to remain still and kick my heart rate down and that so my training was at a minimal for three months. The last four weeks I've been back in and we've worked out some phases to get reestablished and get strong. I'm big at the moment, I'm strong and ready to go."
Heading back stateside
During his time out, Roberts' training camp in America, Blazkzilians, has reportedly disbanded with several members of the team speaking out about a disconnect between the coaches and gym owners. Roberts gave an update on the situation and said that he'd know more about it all when he flies out to America on Monday to start preparing for his next fight.
"I'm aware of what's going on over there," Roberts said. "I'm not too sure on the whole situation, but I'm aware they [Blackzilians] resituated home and upped and moved to a smaller facility. They used to have a big commercial part to the gym where obviously the public could come in and they could sign up as members and train as well. Well apparently the new gym that they've moved to they just wanted it to be strictly a fighter gym and they've moved to another gym now which I've heard is five or ten miles away from where the old base was.
"I've not been over there yet so I don't know the full situation, but I also do now know that Henri Hooft is another gym, Combat Club, and he's doing his striking there so it's a contrast between the two, but ultimately it's still the same."
One last message for the fans
With Roberts about to head west and get his head down into his training for the next eight weeks, he didn't want to leave the UK without sending one last message to his fans. Having endured one of the toughest periods of his career waiting up to heal on the sidelines, Roberts feels likes he's going to return better than ever and that the rest of the UFC welterweight division had better fear his return.
"I just want them to know they know me as a person and as a character and I've got the heart of a lion," Roberts said. "If it wasn't for the injury I'd be active and I'd be out there. Now the injury is done and over, I feel invincible and unbreakable. I'm a new, refreshed me and there's going to be fireworks.
"My next few fights are going to be some of the most exciting and best you're ever going to see. Everyone is going to be talking about me by the end of this year. I plan to be calculated killing machine and there isn't a man out there that can stop me now."