The Ultimate Fighter series, as a concept, is something that has been heavily scrutinised for quite some time now. A lot of fans feel like it’s well past the sell-by date, meanwhile, others feel as if the structure of the show needs to change.
Whichever camp you may fall into, nobody can deny that when Kelvin Gastelum defeated Uriah Hall to win the 17th edition of the show, a star was born. The 21-year-old (at the time) was considered to be a massive underdog against Hall, who proved to have ridiculous knockout capabilities throughout his run on TUF.
“I feel like this is a much, much bigger fight than the Anderson fight would’ve been. I certainly feel like this is a lot bigger than my previous opponent.”
Yet it was Kelvin who reigned supreme and whilst his UFC career hasn’t exactly gone perfectly up to this point, there’s no doubt in our minds that he’ll eventually ascend to the top of either the middleweight or welterweight division.
— #OnAmission4Gold (@KelvinGastelum) November 12, 2017
We recently got the chance to speak to the youngster on the UFC Shanghai conference call, and it was clear that he has one frame of mind moving forward – to defeat Michael Bisping next weekend and move one step closer to acquiring the gold that he has sought after for so long now.
“That’s been the story of my career [being the underdog]. I’ve been the underdog in a lot of my fights, ever since The Ultimate Fighter when I was picked last for god sake. That’s been the story, and I’ve been more than happy to step up to the plate each and every time.”
Of course, Bisping wasn’t the intended opponent for Kelvin, who was initially scheduled to square off against the iconic Anderson Silva. Unfortunately, a failed drugs test has shelved those plans once again, and despite this new fight being on short notice, it’s clear that the Kings MMA native has his eyes firmly set on making history once again.
Gastelum realises that this new opportunity is an even bigger one than facing The Spider would’ve been and that in itself is enough of a reason to tune in to watch these two square off.
“I think after this fight I need a little break. I’ve done three main events in twelve months, and it takes it’s toll on the body.”
It’s also refreshing to see a replacement match-up actually exceed the originally planned bout in terms of excitement, and given Kelvin’s skill set, some will question why the Englishman has even agreed to step back into the octagon against him.
With 12 fights under his belt since that famous win over Uria, it’s no surprise to us that Gastelum wants to take some time off to rest, especially given that a win here will surely put him within touching distance of a title opportunity. He’s smart, he’s young, and he could well be the next mmegastarto come out of the UFC system – that is, if he plays his cards right.