Daniel Straus just wants things to go back to normal.
A hand injury has limited the two-time Bellator featherweight champion to one bout appearance in the past two years, and Straus (25-7) is hoping that Friday’s fight with Emmanuel Sanchez (15-3) at Bellator 184 signals a return to a more consistent schedule. Straus competed three times in 2015 before being sidelined with a major hand injury.
Straus successfully underwent surgery, but the time away meant that he was unable to capitalize on finally overcoming the hurdle that was Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, an opponent who had twice defeated Straus before the 33-year-old Ohioan was able to take a unanimous decision over him on Nov. 6, 2015 to become a Bellator titleholder for the second time.
Unfortunately for Straus, when he returned, Pitbull was right there waiting for him and their fourth encounter ended with Freire reclaiming the championship via second-round rear-naked choke submission in the main event of Bellator 178. Straus talked to MMA Fighting about just how much the 17-month layoff between his last two fights affected his performance.
“It had a big effect on it,” said Straus. “If you look at my past years fighting, I like to fight a couple of times a year, I had momentum, even when I lost I had momentum. I came back, I fought hard, and I just needed to get that fighting momentum back. Being off a year and a half, not really having a game plan, the training didn’t go as well as I wanted to, there’s so many things that you could sit and blame, or sit and say that’s the reason why this or that.
“I came to fight, he was just the better man that day. This was the one, maybe the second time, that I can say he came out the better man that day. He was everything I wasn’t. He was calm, collected, he had a game plan, he knew what he wanted to do. Me, on the other hand, I just wanted to come in and fight.”
The good news for Straus is that he was granted at least one more booking to end 2017 on a high note, and his hand injuries appear to be a thing of the past.
The bad news is that there’s no accounting for Mother Nature.
Though Straus prefers to keep his training diverse and spread out among several gyms, much of his time is spent working with coach Henri Hooft at the Hard Knocks 365 facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. That meant Straus happened to be in Florida when Hurricane Irma struck the state this past September.
Suffice to say, it was a less than ideal scenario for an athlete who was supposed to be peaking physically and mentally for an upcoming fight.
“I stayed through the whole thing and it was miserable,” said Straus. “It took three weeks away from my training camp. I didn’t have power for a week and a half. It really did f**k us up. It f**ked us up bad. But I can’t allow that to f**k with the fight and the more people mention it, the more it plays in my head, but before that I didn’t even think about it at all. I’m just doing my thing, man.
“Hurricane Irma, it happened. It hit. We’re past it. You’ve got to keep moving forward. It sucks that it was so close to the fight, but that’s just God’s way of making it a little easier for (Sanchez). Take me out of the game a little bit, let him get a little bit comfortable, and then let’s see where the fight goes because either way I’m coming to tear somebody’s face off.”
Straus has ways of dealing with these stressful situations, first and foremost spending time with his five-year-old daughter Makayla who he describes as being “very in tune” to fighting. The two enjoy watching matches together, whether or not dad is involved.
“She loves fighting. She doesn’t necessarily want to do it herself, but she loves to watch big fights,” said Straus. “Anytime fighting is on, I don’t even have to be fighting, we can be flipping through channels, ‘Oh, stop there, I want to see this! Dad, who are you rooting for, blue shorts or red shorts? This guy or that guy?’
“She likes it, she enjoys it, and that’s what makes it fun for me. I never thought I was going to bring a child into this world, let alone a child that loves the same things that I do. I’m blessed with the child’s mother that really understands who I am and allows me to separate myself from certain things so I can do better in life for her and the child.”
Something else that makes Straus’s life easier is his use of cannabinoid oil (CBD) to deal with the aches and pains that come with being a professional fighter.
I gotta give a S/O and congrats to homie @joe_schilling for this past weekends performance. Now it’s my turn next week. Oct 6th its kill or kill… never be killed @flavrxtracts @bellatormma @bellatorkb
Straus is a staunch advocate for CBD and he was pleasantly surprised when he was told that the substance was recently removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances list. He’s been wise about taking CBD when it’s permitted for a fighter to do so, and he was planning to continue to make use of it even if the WADA changes didn’t happen.
“It’s great for these athletes because here’s one thing I’ve been thinking about: You see all these football players that are coming up with CTE and all these brain injuries and you’ve got to think, they have helmets on,” said Straus. “And they’re coming up with brain diseases and s**t like that. Whereas we punch each other every day, every goddamn day… Let us be as healthy as we can be. I’m not saying being on drugs is healthy, but the things that are positive for our bodies that have been shown to be positive to our bodies, let us use that.
“You want the best fights that you want to see, you want the fans to see the best fights that we want to give them, we can’t do that at 25 percent. We can’t do that at 35 percent. Maybe at 65, maybe 75, but when we’re 85, 95-percent healthy, then we can put on some good-ass shows. So them passing that is nothing but a blessing, not just for myself, but for all the athletes and I encourage all the athletes to check it out. It’s not something to get high, it’s not something to walk around with your eyes red, head slumped, it’s something that in sports it’s nothing but positive. It’s positive for your body, it’s positive for your mind. I think it’s a good thing.”
Straus battles Sanchez in the featherweight co-main event of Bellator 184 at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., on Friday.