Hometown fights have become something very special for most mixed martial artists.
Unlike many professional sports where a team will have the home crowd on their side for at least half a season each year, fighters in MMA never get such a luxury.
Traveling to new cities and locations is routine, but when the opportunity comes along to fight close to home with an arena full of supporters at their backs, most fighters will do just about anything to compete on a hometown card.
The moment UFC on Fox 9 was announced as landing in Sacramento, California on December 14, lightweight fighter Danny Castillo's eyes popped open wide and a huge smile crept across his face.
Castillo grew up in the capital city of California, and while he did fight there during his WEC debut more than five years ago a lot has changed since that time.
"I've only ever really gotten the chance to fight in Sacramento one time and that was my WEC debut, and at the time I had been fighting less than year," Castillo said. "Urijah (Faber) headlined and sold the place out, Arco Arena was rocking. Unfortunately, I lost so it would be able to fight there again in the UFC it would be awesome."
Castillo came to the WEC with very little fight experience, and has learned how to be a true mixed martial artist while competing on the biggest stages in the UFC since moving there in 2011. Now with a new fight card planned for Castillo's hometown, he couldn't think of a better time to get back in the Octagon while targeting his third win in a row.
"Right now is like the perfect opportunity," Castillo said. "December's not too far away, I'll sit out and wait for December for a fight in my hometown. I'll do pretty much anything actually.
"I went to high school in Sacramento, I went to junior college in Sacramento, I've been here most of my life. It's home. I'm a business owner here in Sacramento. It would be a huge homecoming for me. I get a little bit of chills running down my spine thinking about what it would feel like in there."
While Castillo is quick to point out the good parts of competing close to home, there are also negatives that can happen when there's no getting away from the fight. Training in the same town where everybody knows your name can result in a lot of additional media, ticket requests and pressure on fight night knowing that all of your friends and family are sitting nearby watching.
The veteran UFC lightweight doesn't see it that way at all.
He'll gladly tell anybody who will listen that the UFC only allows him so many tickets to give away, and if he has to do a slew of interviews about fighting in his hometown, Castillo welcomes the extra attention.
If anything, Castillo believes the intensity being ratcheted up by fighting in Sacramento would only focus his training and guarantee a great performance. After all, who wants to let their hometown fans down?
"I like to look at it as positive level," Castillo said. "A positive level that's going to push more towards a whole other level in terms of training, because the last the opportunity I had to fight in Sacramento I didn't do so hot. This is my hometown and it's my time to make a splash."
Castillo doesn't want to call any fighter out by name because it might narrow down the list of potential opponents that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva would consider when trying to put him on the Sacramento card.
In an ideal world, Castillo would face a top-notch opponent, but the reality is he just wants the chance to fight on the UFC on Fox 9 card. The person's name on the other end of the bout agreement doesn't matter all that much.
Castillo doesn't ask the UFC for much, but if he's cashing in on any past credit, this is the time he's doing it.
"It would be an awesome opportunity I've definitely done some good things, I feel like I've been a good employee," Castillo said. "I've taken five or maybe six fights on short notice, so if they could give me a little favor back and get me on that Sacramento card it would mean a lot."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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