Danny Roberts is not the same person he was during his early years in London, his teenage years in Bristol or even his early adult years in Liverpool. At 30, he’s a father, he’s matured, and he looks at life differently than he did back then.
That’s the ideal situation for anyone hitting the big 3-0, but not everyone hits it. Some mature later, some not at all. But as Roberts prepares to return home to his birthplace for Saturday’s bout with Oliver Enkamp, he’s in as perfect a place as he can be in before his sixth UFC fight.
“With fighters, a lot of your personal attributes also play into your career, as far as how settled you are in your outside life and how well things are playing out,” he said. “And for me right now, that’s something that I’ve finally got in tune. So it’s not necessary to say 2018, a new start or anything like that. It’s been a continuous development and a process, and we’re getting better. My mind’s becoming clearer, my tools are becoming sharper, and I just turned 30, so I feel this is the time where I needed to be this wise man for this game that we’re in, and I’m just starting to touch that now.”
Physically, he may be entering his prime. But it’s mentally where he needs to be point if he wants to succeed in one of the UFC’s toughest weight classes, and with his personal life settled and his outlook an optimistic one, the stage is set for the best version of him to date.
“People think at 30 you’re finished,” he said. “It’s far from it. It’s only just begun. They don’t feel how I feel inside, they don’t feel as fresh as I do, mentally or physically. I’m in tune, in harmony, and ready to just go out and show the world what I’ve got and perform.”
A win over Enkamp would make him 4-2 in the UFC and allow him to erase the memory of his most recent bout, a first-round knockout at the hands of Nordine Taleb in December. It’s the kind of loss that eats at him, because every loss eats at him. Yet whether Roberts wins or loses, he is one of those fighters to be embraced because he always shows up ready to take the risks necessary to not only win, but to entertain. And to beat him, you have to finish him.
That’s a badge of honor he wears proudly, and if one thing has remained unchanged in him over the years, it’s that tenacity, that willingness to lay it all on the line when he’s in a fight.
“I’m not necessarily this guy that comes in saying, ‘I want to fight, I want to compete, I want to get paid and go home in the best condition to my family,’” he explains. “I understand that it’s the fight game. And there’s a certain mentality that’s been embedded since I was a kid and it’s that ruthlessness of being able to know that we are in an industry that when the cage door shuts, it’s all about violence. There are millions of people watching, so not only is it about being calculated and skilled. It’s who I am. I’ve had certain things from my past that molded that anger and aggression and that soulful root that I have in my body and I can’t hold it back, so sometimes I just have to let it go.”
That mindset has made “Hot Chocolate” a favorite among fans and a respected warrior among his peers. It also causes his coaches some hair and gives them sleepless nights as they try to get it across to Roberts that occasionally he could make life easier for himself on fight night.
“They tell me that on a regular basis,” he laughs. “But they know Danny Roberts and I’m all fire and flames. At certain times, it’s cool (to be more tactical). But if I feel that you’re hurt, if I feel that you’re weak, I’m still gonna come at you like the hunter does to his prey and there’s no other way about it.”
Even his coaches at Combat Club in South Florida have to respect that, and they’ve let him know that his effort in good and bad times is always set to maximum, and that’s something that can’t be taught. In other words, if you can choose to be locked in an Octagon with anyone, Danny Roberts is probably not that guy you want to pick.
“My past has fueled a flame and a fire where I never want to feel vulnerable,” he said. “So if I’m ever in a fight, this is something that people who have grown up with me and seen the life that I’ve lived and what I’ve gone through know about me. They know the tenacity and the fire that I have burning deep down inside me. So when they see me in a troubled position or see me scramble, ‘Wow, that’s Danny.’ They know the substance that I’ve got.”