After battling anxiety and depression, fighter Danny Carranza hopes his story helps others |

After battling anxiety and depression, fighter Danny Carranza hopes his story helps others

Danny Carranza is currently in the middle of a West Coast speaking tour. He and several other athletes coping with mental illness have been going to mental health facilities and homeless shelters to share their stories and raise awareness about avenues of assistance.
Elias Funez/

Danny Carranza has dreams of one day being a mixed martial arts champion.

The shaggy-haired, 26-year-old featherweight has shown potential in the sport and, with time and training, could have a prosperous career ahead of him.

“It’s the only thing I ever picked up quickly,” Carranza said, noting he wasn’t into other sports as a kid. “I just picked up MMA — the training and techniques — and learning new moves and combinations. I also picked up the habits and the diets all much faster than anything else.”

Lisa Jeanson, former owner and operator of Powerhouse MMA in Grass Valley, trained Carranza when he was first getting into the sport more than half a decade ago.

“Physically he’s got ability,” Jeanson said. “I thought that he was a lot more physically inclined than he thought he was. But, the more he worked on it, the better he looked. It was all about getting his mental state to match his physical state.”

For Carranza, who grew up in Nevada County and still visits often, MMA is not only something he’s good at, but also an avenue of relief from Severe Anxiety Disorder, a mental condition he’s lived with for much of his adult life.

“I was always defensive and always thinking something bad was going to happen,” Carranza said. “That’s what (anxiety) does, it causes you to overthink and create these scenarios in your head that aren’t real or haven’t even happened. But, MMA helped. It calmed me down and helped me feel more secure about myself.”


But, as Carranza will attest to, life can challenge you in ways you’d never expect.

After suffering a broken foot, Carranza was sidelined from his MMA training. During his recovery he fell into a deep depression and struggled to cope.

“I was just so heartbroken and lost about where my life was going I ended up trying to take my life,” he said. “I popped a bunch of pills and drank the rest of the alcohol I had in the house and I just said f— it.”

By Carranza’s own admission his childhood was a troubled one, and adulthood had brought heartbreak and financial troubles which at times left him without a home. He had managed to persevere through those times, but his past coupled with that bout of depression overwhelmed him.

If it weren’t for a friend breaking into his home and shaking him back to consciousness, he may not be alive today.

“That’s when I realized I have be stronger,” he said. “I have to be stronger than this.”

Carranza said he doesn’t take any prescription medication for his anxiety or depression because they don’t have the desired effect, but he has developed coping mechanisms to help him get through the tough times.

One of those mechanisms was reaching out for help and doing so through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which he said he would call every other day during some of the tougher times.

Helping others

He didn’t know it then, but those interactions with the people on the other end of the telephone line would set him on the path he’s currently on.

Carranza is currently in the middle of a West Coast speaking tour. He and several other athletes coping with mental illness go to mental health facilities and homeless shelters to share their stories and raise awareness about mental illness and avenues of assistance with those issues such as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“I want people to understand that they are not alone,” Carranza said. “For three years I felt alone, even though I have friends, family, my son, and people supporting me, I still felt alone. I felt like I couldn’t tell anybody and I felt like I couldn’t talk about it. I felt like I was the only one going through it. I opened up because I want people to understand they are not alone.”

The tour has taken Carranza to Washington and Colorado with stops in the Bay Area and Southern California upcoming. And, while Carranza still copes with his own anxiety and depression, he said its been good to share his story with others and hopes it helps them in their lives.

“It started with me. I had to really accept that I was suicidal,” he said. “It was hard for me to accept that. That I was depressed and alone in the world. But, I want people to know you’re not alone. I’ve been in the same shoes you’re in.

“I’m just trying to show the community, the world, that there is someone out there who cares about you. There’s someone out there who understands you. There’s someone out there who will help you. Reach out to any resource you can find. If you ball it all up and don’t reach out, you’ll end up in a very dark place.”

Esther Leon, Carranza’s sister, said she she’s happy to see her brother sharing his story.

“I hope he’s able to open a lot people’s eyes about suicide and depression,” she said. “I also hope this experience humbles him and opens doors for him.”

The speaking tour and Carranza’s story is being developed into a docuseries by HBO.

Carranza is also in talks to do a future public service announcement for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States, according to its website The phone number is 1-800-273-8255.

Locally, Anew Day offers a faith-based organization that provides healing and hope through lay and professional counseling for those who are hurting. To learn more about Anew Day’s visit or call 530-470-9111.


Carranza still battles his anxiety regularly, but the love he has for his son keeps him motivated and sharing his story has helped him to be more at peace.

“I’m happy right now and I feel good about my life, and I’m confident, but it’s still a struggle,” he said. “I still have anxiety everyday.”

Carranza said what motivates him more than anything is providing a better life for his 6-year-old son.

“He motivates me the most,” said Carranza. “I want to give him the childhood, the teenage years and the life I never had. I want to give him everything I didn’t have.”


Carranza said he still finds time to train at Marinobles Martial Arts and Kickboxing in Roseville as well as Urijah Faber’s Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento and hopes to get back into the octagon at some point this year. But, for now, Carranza believes the path he is on now is the one he’s supposed to be on.

“I have a hard time doing this,” Carranza said. “But, I got brave and it’s time for me to do something for other people.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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