Had things gone right, Kelvin Gastelum could have been the UFC middleweight champion by now. The path was difficult but Gastelum was all set to make the most of his opportunity, after securing a fight with Robert Whittaker.
However, 24 hours before his UFC 234 title bout, Whittaker withdrew from the match due to emergency surgery. Unfortunately, as a result, Gastelum’s mission was put on hold. Kelvin Gastelum puts it this way,
“It was at my fingertips, obviously I was gutted. It was devastating, when all your emotions, thoughts and actions are focused one objective and then it doesn’t happen. After all, I feel like things happen for a reason.”
Though it was a disappointing day in February, Gastelum has come back stronger and more motivated. In March, the UFC announced that Kelvin Gastelum wouldn’t have to wait long for the title shot. It turns out, Gastelum will fight the undefeated Israel Adesanya for the interim 185-pound belt at UFC 236. The winner from the match will take on Whittaker.
This match-up is one that Gastelum is not only excited about but one he’s anticipated for a long time.
“We knew eventually we were going to fight this guy whether it was now or later down the road, we knew that Israel is going to be around for a while and that I will be around for a while. He’s such a skilled fighter but we feel that my style is a problem for him and for anyone, we plan to exploit that.”
UFC 236 takes place on April 13, live from Atlanta, GA. Gastelum has some good memories here, where he won the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter six years ago. The call-back will serve to motivate Gastelum and give him the confidence to succeed.
He is already super-confident after back-to-back victories over Michael Bisping and Jacare Souza.
“When you’re young and you think about these moments and you dream about these moments, you expect to feel a certain way, there’s nothing like that. At this point, in my head it’s kind of supposed to be happening. In my head I’ve already been here fighting for world titles, I’ve visualized it many times. So it feels kind of normal but at the same time I’m obviously very excited. This is for the belt, This is for the world championship. This is something that I’ve dreamed about for a long long time.”
The championship mindset will help him gain confidence and also help him prepare well for Adesanya. Spending time with Adesanya over the last few months has helped Kelvin Gastelum gain some perspective into “The Last Stylebender.”
Gastelum said of Adesanya,
“He’s always been really cool and really respectful. He seems a like a very observant individual, a very smart individual and he’s a student of the game. I respect his skills.”
Adesanya’s impressive 16-0 record has earned him a lot of respect in a short amount of time. Adesanya has momentum on his side and Gastelum has his work cut out for him. Gastelum said,
“This is going to be young hungry lion versus another young hungry undefeated lion, who’s got a whole hype train behind him, it’s going to be fun derailing that.”