The European MMA scene has gone from strength to strength over the past several years and one of the men at the forefront of the movement has been Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson, who takes on Albert Tumenov this weekend at UFC Fight Night 87 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
“Over the years, the European MMA scene has improved. People are now educated,” Nelson told FO back in 2012, prior to his UFC debut. “Before they thought mixed martial arts was two maniacs in a cage. Now people realize it’s a sport. I always think the first step is educating people.”
Even before ‘Gunni’ made an impact in the UFC’s welterweight division, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu prodigy had made a name for himself while fighting across England and Ireland where he trains with Conor McGregor and the rest of the SBG Ireland team. But Nelson has broadened his horizons much further than that, and that has included him training with former UFC welterweight champ Georges St Pierre up in Canada.
“I’ve trained with Georges a few times,” he said. “Obviously, he’s a phenomenal fighter and he’s very friendly. He’s not one of those guys who doesn’t train with fighters in his weight class because they could be a potential opponent or a threat to him.”
Gunnar experienced the toughest setback of his MMA career thus far when he met fellow BJJ assassin Demian Maia at UFC 194 last December. Nelson was thoroughly dominated in the grappling department by Maia over three rounds – something he is by no means used to – and lost via unanimous decision. But Gunnar is a humble, contemplative athlete and will no doubt have prepared himself mentally for his next challenge.
“As you climb up the ladder, it will be trickier to find those moments. Fights will probably get longer. I just have to stay focused on what I believe in.”
The full interview with Gunnar Nelson is available inside Fighters Only. Get your copy here.