Professional Ultimate Fighter
SS: What made you go vegan and why?
MD: I've always been someone who believes strongly in animal rights. Becoming Vegetarian was an idea I had been fond of since childhood. I, like many people, was uneducated when it came to proper nutrition and I had always believed that the human body needed some sort of meat or fish in order to train as an athlete at the highest level. I figured that I would adopt a vegan diet after I was retired from competing. Once I did more research and started trying a strict Vegan diet out, I realized how absurd the notion of "needing" meat in the diet was. From that point on, I never looked back.
SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes what was difficult and did it get easier?
MD: It was actually never difficult for me at all. That is probably why it was so easy for me to go "cold turkey" and never have a problem. I will admit that living in Southern California makes it so much easier to implement a Vegan lifestyle than if I were to live in the midwest or somewhere similar where options are limited. Really, it's all mental. If you have it in your head that going Vegan is going to be restrictive and you dwell on what you can't eat, you will view it as deprivation, and it will be hard. But if you view it as a positive change and look forward to all of the new amazing, healthy and delicious foods you can eat, there will be zero issues at all.
SS: What are some animal rights related things that you participate in?
MD: Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of free time to participate directly in animal rights crusades as much as I'd like. My main way of helping the cause is to use my consumerism to make the choices that I feel are right. To me, it's like voting. By choosing not to eat animals or purchase animal products, I'm not contributing directly to the malevolent industries of the world that cause so much pain and suffering. Also, my direction is to lead by example. Letting everyone know that a Vegan diet can make you healthier by performing at the top level of my sport has opened people's eyes. Rather than putting people on the defensive and shoving my personal philosophies in their faces, I choose to simply do my thing and let people see for themselves that there is nothing but good to be gained from going Vegan.
SS: What are your favorite animal rights organizations?
MD: I really admire those who take the cause seriously and treat it with respect. I always have had a lot in common with the organizations that address both animal rights and environmentalism as one. There are way too many to mention, but I really have been impressed lately by all of the homeless pet adoption orgs that work so hard to foster and place stray or abandoned domestic animals.
SS: What would you say to somebody who is considering going vegan?
MD: Go for it! You've got nothing to lose!
SS: Do you have any memories that stand out in your mind about someone saving an animal? Or relating to an animal in a unique way?
MD: I have many memories from the time I spent working on Ooh-Mah-Nee Farm in Pennsylvania. It was an independent farm animal sanctuary, much like the Farm Sanctuary Organization. One rescue in particular stands out for me. We were rescuing over 100 sheep and other animals from horrible conditions on a condemned farm. Most of the animals were sick or dying, many too weak to stand. A large portion of the sheep were confined to small pens where they could barely stand up or turn around, surrounded by the dead bodies of other animals. Of these sheep, we got as many as we could into horse trailers and transported them immediately into a large field on our property where they could be quarantined and cared for. Although they were in bad shape, I'll never forget how happy they were when we opened the trailer doors to their new wide open pasture. A few of them took giant 20-foot leaps out onto the grass and began to run around and play. Just seeing the elation of these animals finally feeling freedom for the first time has always stuck with me.