‘From a Croydon council estate to Las Vegas – and people thought I was crazy’

Danny Roberts had to navigate his way through what he describes as dark places on his way to UFC stardom – finding his escape in boxing and then MMA.

Now 35, Roberts has returned to Las Vegas for his 13th bout under the UFC banner at UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak this Saturday (November 19), 12 years after his pro debut.

Having grown up alongside his brother and sister raised by their single mother on a Croydon council estate, they relocated to Bristol in his youth, where he made steps towards making something of his life – even training with a makeshift punchbag.

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Speaking to Daily Star Sport during fight week, Roberts said of his path from determined youth to respected UFC veteran: "It has been an absolute journey.

"Every time my story gets mentioned it's very humbling for me because I did come from a very dark place. I had a troubled childhood and I found a way to escape.

"People still don't know publicly my story and the depths of where I was as a child and as a youth. But the whole story of having a mattress round a washing pole to train and having people walk past… people thought I was crazy."

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Roberts entered the UFC with a record of 11–1 following spells with Cage Warriors and UCC among others, going on to win seven of his 12 fights with the promotion so far.

Having got back to winning ways with a knockout of Zelim Imadaev in 2019, he beat Ramazan Emeev by split decision before slipping to defeat against veteran Francisco Trinaldo in May.

Up next is Australian prospect Jack Della Maddalena, who is looking to get himself a ranked opponent having won 12 professional fights in a row after losing his opening two bouts.

Roberts believes his fighting mindset stemmed from his upbringing which led into his path towards a respected profession – always striving for more.

He added: "I didn't have resources or the things that some people might've had, but the stories behind fighters are some of the things we make us how we are. It's hardwired.

"For me as a young kid I was just someone who wanted better and wanted more. I wanted to prosper and to be able to attain something for my family I hadn't had.

"I grew up without a dad and around an abusive relationships and all those kind of things, it was just me wanting more. I knew that one day if I stayed true to myself, keeping my head held high, that as some point I'd get something back.

"I'm in a position now where I have a beautiful partner and lovely kids which helps the process of my story."

Roberts, who has trained in Liverpool as well as in the United States is eyeing up a return to fighting in the UK when Leon Edwards defends his welterweight belt against Kamaru Usman.

The Brit opens up the main card at UFC Vegas 65 against Jack Della Maddalena with the main event a heavyweight bout betwween former title challenger Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak.

The event will be shown live at 7pm UK time (9pm main card) on Saturday 19 November on BT Sport 2HD and across digital platforms.


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