Kelvin Gastelum has the perfect chance to stake his claim for a shot at the UFC middleweight title when he faces former champion Chris Weidman this Saturday (July 22) in Long Island at UFC on Fox 25.
The gifted 25-year-old, who has fluctuated between welterweight and middleweight, and boasts wins over Vitor Belfort (later turned into a No Contest), Tim Kennedy and Johny Hendricks, knows a win over Weidman could be just the ticket. Here, in an interview with Fighters Only’s Tony Reid, he explains why he believes he should be next in line for a crack at UFC gold and also goes on to predict that he’ll finish Weidman early in the fight.
Q: This won’t be the first time you have entered enemy territory and put hands on an opponent. Is this one different in any way?
Kelvin Gastelum: This is a huge deal for me. I’m sure Chris is highly motivated and highly inspired to be fighting in his hometown, in his back yard, and in front of his friends and family. That makes him very dangerous. But, at the same time, that gives him a lot of internal pressure. Like you said, this is not the first time I have gone into hostile territory and fought a guy in front of their people. I am perfectly fine with this role. I am comfortable. I feel like I have no pressure. I just have to go out there and put on a show like I know I can.
Q: How do you visualize this one playing out?
KG: I always see myself winning in the first round. I think that’s just me being hopeful. If it was up to me I would win every fight in the first round. I feel like I can win this fight in the first round and that would be my prediction.
Q: You have scored three big wins in a row over Vitor Belfort, Johny Hendricks and Tim Kennedy. With a win over Weidman you said you will grab the mic and demand a title shot. So, with that being said, what are your thoughts on the current champion Michael Bisping and the interim champion Robert Whittaker?
KG: I feel like I should be next in line. Why not? (Luke) Rockhold is MIA. He hasn’t fought since he lost the belt. Yoel (Romero) is coming off a loss. (Gegard) Mousasi is gone. I feel like my next opportunity should be for the belt. When it comes to Bisping and Whittaker, I feel like I can compete well with both of them. They aren’t extremely big middleweights, like me. I would be right in there in the fight. I can beat both the interim champion and the defending champion.
Q: You speak often of being the underdog and being under-appreciated. Can you put your finger on why that is the case?
KG: I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s my physical attributes. I’m not the most intimidating-looking guy. Maybe that’s why.
Q: You have said you are the future of the division and that this is still just the beginning for you. Talk to us about that.
KG: For sure. I have been fighting in the UFC for four years. I haven’t even hit my prime yet. I’m just 25 years old. I could be in this sport for ten years. I still have so much room for growth. I haven’t even shown 50% of my potential inside the Octagon. I have had twelve fights but I haven’t even shown all my abilities. I have a lot more improving to do. I have a lot more to show.
It’s scary to think about. I haven’t even hit the pinnacle of my potential. I have some surprises up my sleeve. I was a wrestler for 12 or 13 years. I wrestled all the way up to college. I have that in my back pocket. People haven’t seen that yet. I haven’t even used my wrestling in a fight yet. Nobody wants to take me down. Nobody has been able to take me down. If they have I got right back up and used my boxing.
Q: It feels like you have been around a lot longer than you have. Does it feel that way to you, too?
KG: Yeah, it kind of does. It does feel long. I am just enjoying the ride; I am enjoying the wave. I am taking the punches of life one at a time. I have had some ups, I have had some downs. I feel like I am putting all the experience together and making something special out of it.
Q: You said you are grabbing the mic after the win on Saturday night. Do you have any rehearsed lyrics or are you going to go off the top and spit freestyle?
KG: As soon as I get that mic I want to make my claim for a title shot. I do (have some rehearsed lines), but I don’t want to spoil it.