Dan Ige is not your average prize fighter.
Fighting in the UFC is the ultimate goal for many mixed martial artists. For Ige, a Haleiwa native, it’s a dream come true. But fighting is far from the only thing that Ige has a passion for.
Coming off a spectacular TKO finish over Mike Santiago in the curtain-jerker of this past Saturday’s UFC 225 card, Ige found himself back in the UFC’s office this morning after a delayed flight to Las Vegas from Chicago.
While Ige did work in the cage this weekend, he still had his day job as a fight manager under Dominance MMA Management to take care of.
“It’s tough to balance, but it’s manageable,” Ige said of being both a UFC fighter and a manager. “It helps me keep my mind sharp, especially being around the fight game; constantly being around fights and fighters. I see everything that’s going on and constantly evolving.”
Dealing with clients and the UFC promotion is one thing - stepping inside the Octagon is another.
After losing his UFC debut back in January, Ige had to go back to the drawing board heading into his fight against Santiago. Ige, 26, had a bitter taste left in his mouth from his second-career loss and knew as both a fighter and a manager that being 0-2 in the UFC isn’t a good position to be in.
The man known as “Dynamite” once his hands are wrapped and his mouthpiece is in knew that he had to make a statement at UFC 225, so he trained as if his career depended on it.
“I was a lot more disciplined. I took everything serious,” Ige said. “Not that I didn’t take everything serious my first time, but no excuses for that loss. I lost a technical battle there but going into this fight, I was so determined to win. There was nothing that was going to stop me. I believed 100 percent that I was going to go in there and get this victory.”
Shortly after Ige’s explosive knockout victory that set the tone for the rest of the fight card, support from fellow fighters, friends and media member started to flow in, including a message from UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“Surrounding myself with guys at the highest level, that’s where I want to be,” Ige said. “I want to be a champion one day. Just to surround myself and get encouragement from other champions is pretty cool for them to notice me. I’m not in this to try to get noticed. That’s not what I do this for. I do this for myself. But to get that recognition, it does mean something and it does give me a little extra encouragement every fight.”
Without the strong support system Ige has in place, Ige wouldn’t be where he is today. And perhaps nobody understands better than Ige what it’s like to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity when it presents itself.
Ige’s road to the UFC is an interesting one. After posting a 7-1 record in various fighting promotions, Ige got the call to fight in Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last July. With a win, Ige would be in line to receive a UFC contract from White himself.
Ige secured his future with the promotion after finishing Luis Gomez in the third round via rear-naked choke, opening the door to his UFC career. But even though he’s guaranteed himself some a bigger fan base and some favor among the hierarchy of the UFC, Ige won’t let go of the chip on his shoulder.
One day, after his fighting days are behind him, he hopes to provide those same opportunities for Hawaii fighters that have earned their way to the world’s premier fighting organization.
“The talent in Hawaii...there’s so much talent in Hawaii and people don’t get noticed,” he said. “I work as a manager on the side and that’s something I want to do after fighting - going back to help some of the young talent in Hawaii.
“There’s so much potential and I just want to help other fighters get recognized and give them some guidance and direction to help them get to the UFC because there’s so many fighters there that can be in the UFC. They just need that direction and guidance. And years from now, I’m sure Hawaii will take over the UFC.”
Until that day, however, Ige remains steadfast in his approach to the fight game - both in the cage and behind an office desk.
“I’ve mentioned before that fighting, It's stress,” he said. “When we’re in the cage, it’s stress to the human body. I’m resilient to that and when I go into that fight, I’m ready for war in there.”