Kelvin Gastelum finds unpredictability both a blessing and a curse. It’s sometimes what wins him fights; it’s sometimes what loses him fights. Happy to go with the flow, Gastelum is prone to lapses in discipline and concentration, just as he is prone to flittering between weight-classes. But get him on a good day, fighting when fit, healthy and motivated, and you’re looking at one of the best welterweights and middleweights on the planet.
This Saturday (November 25) in Shanghai, China, Gastelum will show up as a middleweight in a five-round main event against Michael Bisping. And, in some respects, his next opponent, the former UFC middleweight champion, is the polar opposite of Gastelum. Unlike Gastelum, Bisping has been a picture of consistency and reliability throughout his 11-year- stint with the UFC. He has always showed up, always given his all, whether in victory or in defeat. (Even this upcoming with fight with Gastelum was one Bisping agreed to take on barely a couple of weeks’ notice, it coming just three weeks after his UFC 217 loss to Georges St-Pierre.) He is also, however, 38 years of age, meaning 12 years Gastelum’s senior. That’s an important point to keep in mind, because Bisping, now the mature, respected, older statesman of the UFC, was once emotionally-led, rash with his decision-making, and unsure whether he wanted to be a light-heavyweight or middleweight. Now look at him.
Gastelum, 13-3 (1 NC), has time. He also has bags of potential. What’s more, should he hand Michael Bisping his second defeat in a row this weekend, the gifted Californian could very well be in line for a shot at the UFC middleweight crown.
“If I win this fight, it will put me up high in the rankings and hopefully in the conversations to fight for the title,” he said. “That’s ultimately my goal.
“He’s ranked number two, fresh off his title fight with GSP. I feel like this is an even better fight for my career and I expect it to be a tough fight.”
There’s a sense Gastelum, last seen losing a thriller against Chris Weidman in July, isn’t too fussed whether his UFC title shot arrives at middleweight or welterweight, so long as it arrives.
“I feel like if I win this fight then I might have tarnished those plans and I might’ve just permanently put myself in the position where I’ll be fighting for the middleweight title,” he said. “If I get to fight for the middleweight title, then that’s ideal. But I also feel like if I do the right things and am able to make 170 safely and healthy, then I can do it and want to fight for that title, too.”
Despite having a few things stacked in his favour, Gastelum isn’t taking Bisping lightly. He’s not of the view Bisping has been softened up by GSP, nor expecting him to take the easy way out. It’s a better fight than the one he had originally scheduled against Anderson Silva, Gastelum believes. A tougher fight, a better opponent. A fight that carries far greater reward.
“I only feel it’s an advantage career-wise,” Gastelum said. “Mike is obviously a former champion and his position in the UFC is very high, so this is a great move for my career. But I feel advantage-wise in the fight, it’s very equal. He’s coming fresh off a camp, so I imagine he’s in good shape and he’s going to be ready. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy fight.”