On fight night, he will be 10 days away from turning 26 years old. He is already a veteran of the United States Air Force (USAF) with six deployments to more than 40 countries. He is Danny “Dirty” Durnavich (6-1) originally from South Chicago and he will be making his final appearance as an amateur fighter when he meets Raheam "Rambo" Forest (4-4) in V3Fights 61 at the Tampa Convention Center on Saturday.
In the USAF, Durnavich served as a Phoenix Raven, which saw him conducting security for high terrorist threat-level cases abroad, and was based out of Tampa, Florida. It was here that Durnavich became interested in mixed martial arts.
“I had boxed for a year while growing up in Chicago and I wrestled pretty much my whole life. I always wanted to get back into it but I just never really had the right opportunity,” Durnavich said.
“One of my [USAF] teammates was fighting for my coach now, Mike Yanez of Highlander MMA, and I went and checked out one his fights. I saw it and thought, ‘man, I have to try this’ and I got involved and fell in love with it.”
Due to his military service, Durnavich was relocated to Los Angeles in 2016 and began training with the prestigious Black House (Casa Preta) team, which has housed notable standouts such as Anderson Silva, Junior Dos Santos, and José Aldo. He collected two wins in the Nevada promotion Tuff-N-Uff against the likes of Alonzo Salas and Cole Jordan.
Now, Durnavich is back at Highlander MMA in Florida where he has been using his experiences with the USAF to his advantage.
“You learn to deal with a lot of stupid crap, we’ll say that,” Durnavich said. “I mean discipline is the biggest factor coming from that.
“I had a pretty physically-demanding job. You go through six weeks of training that pushes you past failure every day physically and mentally. You learn quickly through that training that when your body’s quitting, your mind doesn’t have to. Your mind can push your body to go to the next level. When I bring that to MMA, I could be completely exhausted but I’m going to keep moving forward.”
Durnavich will be making his third consecutive appearance in the Welterweight division after beginning his amateur career with five straight wins at the Middleweight level.
“I walk around at 189-190 [pounds], so cutting to Middleweight is just one sauna session,” Durnavich said. “I find that I have a big size advantage in the Welterweight class whereas in Middleweight, I’ll still be just as strong as my opponents but they’re going to be taller than me and they’re going to have reach on me. I prefer Welterweight, right now at least.”
Forest, Durnavich’s 20-year-old counterpart, will be entering his second consecutive match with an opponent who holds a record of 6-1. Forest lasted three rounds before a unanimous decision in favor of Bradley Gibson at V3Fights 60. He will be a formidable challenger to Durnavich in his last amateur bout.
“[Forest] throws hard punches from his what I’ve seen in his previous fights,” Durnavich said. “He’s got big power takedowns but it’s always him capitalizing on somebody else’s mistake. If I can go in there and stick to my game plan and stay straight, he’s not going to have whole lot of mistakes to capitalize off of.
“He throws wide punches, really wide punches so I think if I shoot right down the pike, he’s going to get some hard leather.”
Durnavich seems confident in himself more than anything. He speaks highly about his family, his coaches, and the general work ethic that he has absorbed from being around all of these people.
“I come from a very hard-working family,” Durnavich said. “Nobody’s ever been brought up by money. Everybody worked their butts off for it.
“My coach is a huge inspiration to me because he came up through the Popovich lineage under Gracie’s jiu jitsu and he inspires me every day when I’m at training.”
The future seems bright for Durnavich and he has set his goals high. And although he admits that he is not at the top level yet, one cannot help but help but imagine the opportunities that lie ahead.
“I think the dream fight right now, you know looking forward, I would like to fight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone,” Durnavich said with a chuckle. “I really respect his style and I pay a lot of attention to him and I think he’s an awesome fighter and good person on the outside. I think it would be cool to fight somebody that you’ve looked up to in the sport for a long time.”
WHAT: V3Fights 61: Durnavich vs Forest
WHEN: Saturday August 19, 2017 | 3:00 pm doors open (for amateur fights | 7 pm pro fights start
WHERE: Tampa Convention Center | 3335 Franklin St | Tampa FL
ADMISSION: $35 general admission | $55 reserved seating | $85 cageside seating
V3FIGHTS is a professional mixed martial arts promotion that gives rising stars and top contenders the opportunity to prove their talent to fans and leaders in the industry. V3FIGHTS presents live events on a monthly basis around the United States; including Memphis, Nashville, Tunica and Biloxi. V3FIGHTS can be seen live all over the world through its pay-per-view deal with GFL. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, V3FIGHTS is one of the most active and respected MMA organizations in the fastest growing sport in the world.