Danni Neilan 5-0-0 is an Irish professional Mixed Martial Artist currently competing in the Strawweight Division, representing SGB Ireland. A professional competitor since 2019, she has competed for National Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA.
I’d like to start this off by thanking you for taking the time to speak to me today Danni, and also to congratulate you on your phenomenal win at Bellator 270.
It must have been an amazing feeling, not just adding to your win streak, but to do it in front of your fellow countrymen and women must have been such a high point of your career?
“Hey Aaron, thank you so much for the interview, and the congratulations. Yes absolutely, so I was in the 3arena for my pro debut, and that was a career-high as well. But I don’t think I took it In on the night the way I took it In Friday night. So I was much more relaxed walking out and I enjoyed myself. I put my hands up and looked out into the crowd, and I took it in because I was much more relaxed than I was when I was having my debut there. It was also an electric night, it was one of the biggest nights in Irish MMA on this soil, so the crowd was going wild. So Definitely a career-high for me. And then winning on top of that, so not just the walkout but getting to Finish the opponent then hear the audience get so excited and going crazy, that was super special. The walkout and getting the win was so special.”
And what a night it was for you in Dublin, taking nothing away from your opponent Audrey Kerouche. You guys gave the fans a war they’ll remember for some time to come. What stands out most for you that night at Bellator270?
“The things that stand out for me the most was how comfortable I was going into the arena, how confident I felt while warming up and walking out. I remember taking it all in. And I Remember looking across from Audrey and just knowing that I was one hundred percent winning this fight. I knew I was going to win, I just felt so confident. Whether we fought standing or whether we wrestled, I was one hundred percent winning this fight, I just remember an overwhelming feeling of confidence and determination to win. And that’s exactly what happened, when the fight was over and I went up into the crowd it was an amazing atmosphere all night, an amazing positive buzz around the place. That was something I enjoyed as well, taking in the positive vibes and that atmosphere.”
Other than your inclusion on the night, were there any fights that stuck out for you?
“The fights that stood out for me was of course Ciaran Clarke, Ciaran’s like my partner in crime at this stage. We did IMMAF tournaments together, we both fought in our pro debut on the same night and we’ve been fighting on Bellator ever since together. So his amazing comeback in his fight was just spectacular. I was so happy for him, I remember the crowd going wild with what happened, so that was a huge fight in my mind to remember. Another fight was also Pedro Carvalho, Pedro is a super positive teammate in the gym, he brings everyone together and uplifts everyone. He’s had such a hard time of late, I was so happy to see him win. To win against such an impressive opponent in Daniel Weichel, I’m so happy for Pedro that he’s back to winning ways.”
By taking your win streak to 5-0-0, you are part of a select group of athletes that hold a winning streak from the very start of your professional career. The Sky is the limit when it comes to your options for your future opponents with Bellator, is there anybody, in particular, you’d like to be paired up against for future events?
“At the moment I’m calling out Valerie Lourda, who fights this weekend for Bellator in the US. Valerie’s a Flyweight, not a strawweight, I feel like I could match up very well against Valerie, even though she’s bigger. I think I could beat Valerie, she’s a big name, she’s a big draw. She does really good marketing for herself, she’s got a huge amount of followers. So I would love to fight Valerie and take a few of her followers or share them even. So if she wins this weekend she’ll hear me shouting all about it on social media.”
The strawweight division at Bellator holds such amazing talent but lacks the opportunity of gold. Does this make you consider changing weight divisions to achieve the ultimate prizefighters yearn for?
“Yeah, like I’m not ruling out moving up a weight division to try to become world champion. You know they don’t have a strawweight belt, they don’t have a championship for me or a division for me. It’s something I’ve thought about, but I am a strawweight. I am small. I’m 5 ‘4, I walk around at under 130lbs. So realistically my best weight is strawweight, but I think that I am so skilful that I could still beat a lot of those Flyweights. But when you look at the top tier, the champ is huge. So I would have to put some size on to match them. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities, it’s something I’ve thought about, but deep down I know the best weight for me is at a strawweight.”
Last but not least do you have a message for the fans that have been following your journey and is there anybody you’d like to shout out to?.
“Yeah, I’d like to give a big shout out to all my supporters, especially those that have been with me from the grassroots, from the very start from when I was an amateur. And all those people that have been behind me, the people from Mullingar, from Dublin, from Kildare. All these counties that I have connections to and I’ve lived in for periods of my life. I appreciate that support, I feel the support. Had a big busload of people from Mullingar. And to all the people that came to my fight on Friday night, it meant something special to me, so I wanna give a huge shout out. To take your evening out to come to see me, I’d like to give a huge shout out to them. To the fans that turned up for me or even just turned on their TV and watched on Friday, thanks very much.”