Danny Maldonado (4-4 amateur) will meet a familiar face in Jovany (Geo) Alvarez at Maverick 12, on Friday, March 8 at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
The two men will make their professional mixed martial arts debuts after having competed against one other in the amateur level, and also once in a grappling competition.
Maldonado bested Alvarez with a unanimous decision victory when the two flyweight competitors met at Triton Fights 6 in February 2018. The fight came little more than two years after their grappling competition at NYFE: Live at The MMA World Expo resulted in a draw.
Now officially affiliated with a new gym, “Flashnado” Maldonado feels rejuvenated and ready to go. The 29-year competitor is now based out of Liquid Jiu Jitsu and Wolfpack Boxing Club and we caught up with him to talk about the Maverick MMA event that is roughly one month away.
“My new coach is Rob Acevedo. He is a two-time Golden Gloves champion, and my grappling coach now is Ryan Quinn, who is the RISE middleweight champion,” Maldonado said. “These guys are really helping me out. I’m gonna be a different fighter.”
This is your first fight in Pennsylvania. This is also your pro debut. Are you expecting anything different?
“Not really. I’ve been doing pro rules since I was an amateur. The only thing different, which was added, is elbows. And I’m excited to throw those because I feel like I have sharp elbows. I’ve been waiting for the time that I can legally throw them. I’m happy to do that in Pennsylvania.”
You have competed against Alvarez twice now already, once in grappling which went to a draw, and then in MMA where you earned a unanimous decision. How did this third meeting come together, especially now in Pennsylvania since you are both from New York?
“One, he fought for Maverick before. I heard that he wanted to go pro. I’ve been in talks with Maverick. I wanted to fight David Juliano (Maverick’s amateur flyweight champion) for quite some time. We were supposed to fight, but he got the pro contract with CFFC. Good for him. Me and Geo have history, so you know. It made sense. We are gonna settle it once again. This time for Maverick, and in our pro debuts, so it actually means something. I’m looking to beat him and get a nice start to my pro career.”
On social media you wrote: “I’ll be fighting in the Flyweight Grand Prix against a past opponent that I defeated in the amateur ranks so I expect him to be much more prepared. I’ve been putting in the work and look forward to showcasing my talent and making my run in this fight game!”
Now in speaking with promoter Willy Sisca, fans kind of have to see how your fight plays out before they officially announce it as a grand prix. From what I’m being told, one of your good friends, Charalampos Grigoriou, is also on the short list of competitors in the competition and there is a possibility that you may end up facing him if you both win.
“I mean, we’re not gonna fight. We already spoke about it. The plan was that David Juliano was supposed to be on the bracket but he got that CFFC contract. Then there was supposed to be this kid, Xi Lau, who was ranked number one in amateur flyweights in the northeast. He was supposed to fight but didn’t like the opponent…. which I think is stupid. He said the guy was 0-2, and he didn’t want to fight an 0-2 pro as his pro debut. I think that is stupid. Take the fight. If you think you are going to win, take the fight, and win. Then my friend is dropping down to flyweight. We’ve trained together a couple of years now. It wouldn’t make sense to fight each other. We’re good friends. There’s plenty of other guys for us to fight. If he wins, and I win… we’ll fight different opponents.”
I interviewed you little more than a year ago and you told me and I quote “flyweights are the most skilled fighters in the world.”
Obviously, we have all seen the news in regards to the UFC possibly eliminating their 125-pound division. As a flyweight fighter yourself, and one who believes your division has the most skilled fighters in the world, what do you think went wrong? And can the little guys ever make a comeback there?
“I feel like it was just promotion. I feel like they didn’t push the flyweights enough. They had the flyweight division come up and then they had the whole Conor McGregor thing and him becoming a star and the focus was on him. When Conor blew up, everybody only really wanted to see him fight. Instead of promoting the flyweights, they promoted him a lot. It kind of overshadowed the fact that the flyweights were a new division and that Demetrious Johnson was dominating. It was a different approach. They wanted to promote the flyweights but then they stopped. Then it became this thing where shit talking became a thing, it was big in MMA. Everybody wanted to be like Conor. I feel like all the fan attention, casual and hardcore, they all wanted to support Conor and all he was doing. They just followed his story and it left the flyweights on the backburner. But… I still do believe we are the best fighters in the world. I know that ONE Championship is doing great things out there. So if the UFC does eliminate the flyweight division, which I don’t think they will because even if it was an early stoppage, Henry Cejudo destroyed TJ Dillashaw. He was the aggressor for the 30-seconds of that fight. We are very talented. TJ is an amazing fighter and Henry just ran through him. That shows that flyweights really are that good. So, if the UFC drops it, then ONE Championship is probably where I will go, but like I said, ‘the flyweights are the best fighters in the world.'”
One things I have noticed recently while stalking your social media accounts is that you previously used to engage in trash talk. It appears as if that has either been reduced or cut out all together. What changed?
“Nothing has changed there. It’s just I haven’t had a fight in a long time. I can’t really talk about fighting and beating somebody up if there’s nobody to beat up. That’s the reason why I stopped a little bit. I’ve been on the shelf. I’ve been training and going to different gyms and trying to focus on myself. Now that I have a gym, now that I have an awesome core group of guys, now I have a fight lined up, now the confidence is back, now the skills are on point. Be on the lookout for me to talk a lot more smack because now I finally have something set, a pro debut. It’s a fresh start, a new career. The publicity will start coming in and I will be talking a lot more shit.”
Predictions for the fight? You already have a win over him.
“A more impressive win. The last time we fought it turned into a grappling match. It was me taking him to the floor and working on my ground and pound. For that fight I was working out only at a boxing gym and was working strictly on my stand up. My ground game was good enough to beat him but for this camp I am working on all assets of the game. I’m working on my wrestling, working on my boxing, working on my jiu jitsu. Both my coaches are very excited. They have their own strategies. For this fight I will be a lot more well-rounded, a lot more polished. I’ll look to dominate. The finish will come, but I’m looking to dominate. Get in, get out, get paid. Then go to the next fight.”
What kind of crowd are you bringing with you? It’s about an hour and a half from the city to the Poconos.
“I have a lot of good friends. I have a lot of supporters. I plan on bringing a lot of people with me. I appreciate that. That’s always a confidence booster when you have a crowd there. Luckily I am surrounded by good people, a lot of people want to come. So yeah, I’ll bring a nice crowd and then we’ll get a win.”
“I just want to thank my coaches Rob Acevedo, my grappling coach Ryan Quinn, and all my training partners for helping me out this fight. I don’t have any sponsors which sucks, but I’m pretty sure they’ll come after I beat this guy up.”