For the last decade, Mac Danzig–a 155-pound wrecking ball with a 21-9-1 record–has honed and refined his skills in the Mixed Martial Arts game. His out look and demeanor are proof that aggressiveness can synthesize with compassion and athletics can co-exist with intelligence. He is a hardcore herbivore with the spiritual sensibilities of a Bodhisattva, who possesses a marked insight and an affinity for nature.
Danzig is one of the many athletes who annihilate the stereotype that veganism is synonymous with weakness. “I feel that this thought process is dying fast,” he says via an email interview. “All of the information out there about diet has always been so primitive and biased—especially in the corporate, industry-driven modern age.” He goes on to say that it is only a matter of time before people get their health knowledge from other sources besides the biased and blighted, “milk industry billboards and whey protein ads in bodybuilding magazines.”
He might be the winner of Ultimate Fighter season six, but that accomplishment along with all the others are just brush strokes on Danzig’s big picture outlook. The merits of his transformation from a novice to full-fledged pro, are not numbers and titles, rather they are lessons learned and the character that has been built. “As far as specific accolades go, not one stands above the rest,” he says, “…the entire journey itself is what I’m proud of. All of it. The wins, the losses and everything in between.” While Danzig has gotten knocked down his fair share, he takes credence in the fact that he is still standing: “I’ve had so many hard times in this sport that I’ve lost count. I’ve considered quitting so often, but never gave up.”
Raw and organic food, mixed with nuts and legumes comprise a large part of Danzig’s diet. He rounds it out with fruit smoothies mixed with Vega protein powder, and juices made from greens like kale and spinach. When he trains for a fight he cuts out wheat, processed foods and refined sugars.
The foundation of this fighter’s hard-hitting ethics is the fundamental conviction that human beings are on equal footing with the rest of the animal kingdom. “I have always felt a strong connection to nature and all living creatures,” he says. “The idea that humans are superior to all living things is absurd to me. Especially when there are people who use that ideology to push away their conscience and treat every non-human with complete disregard.”
He believes that as the buyers and sellers on this earth, every one of us has a responsibility to tread lightly and act with care. While our individual actions might not have far-reaching consequences, we have a duty to act accordingly, which in his case is not supporting the systematic killing and torture of animals. “Even if it’s only a drop in an ocean, I prefer to make my actions count,” he says. “I don’t want to contribute to those horrible, inhumane industries that manufacture suffering on a massive scale.”
As an adult, Danzig’s responsibilities are more than just knockouts and submissions—he has a three-year-old daughter who he has raised on a vegan diet. He understands though that eventually she will make her own decisions, and if she strays from dad’s plant-based diet he won’t try and stop her. “My philosophy has never been to force opinions or beliefs on anyone, including my own child,” he says.
In the end he has confidence in her intelligence. He recalls one time she asked him, “Why do some people eat animals? That’s not nice. There is so much other food to eat!” He couldn’t give her a good answer.
When I asked Mac if he had any last words he wanted to share, he went to great lengths to explain that zealotry and force is not the way to turn the tide. He believes that unlike his profession, you can’t force someone to submit in order to achieve victory, you must educate, not admonish:
Since we are on the topic of Veganism and a large part of the readers are likely Vegan, I’d like to say that it has always been my M.O. to lead by example, rather than to shove ideals down other people’s throats. I wish more people involved with animal rights and Veganism would take that approach. I think that some of the fanatical Vegans who have turned it from a healthy subculture to a religious movement, end up putting more people off than they end up educating. If your idea of propagating information is to point fingers and use force, then your audience will most certainly become defensive. A line is then drawn, and a war is waged. That is not the way. We are all on this earth together. Having compassion for those who are ignorant will change your approach to educate them. Most people who don’t understand the idea of animal rights or are simply uneducated, misinformed, or victims of corporate consumerism. They are the same as you and I, they have just been dealt the wrong dose of information. If we want people to take animal rights seriously, we must treat it seriously, with the dignity that it deserves. In my humble opinion, doing things purely for attention attracts the wrong kind of attention to the cause.