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Gastelum not sure Whittaker will be the same fighter ‘after these wars he’s been in’ with Romero

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The upcoming middleweight title challenger has his doubts about whether the champ is going to be able to compete at 100% again after his last two fights.

Five years after winning the Ultimate Fighter 17 and Kelvin Gastelum is getting his first title shot in the UFC. Although he won his TUF title at 185, Gastelum told reporters he never expected his first chance at a belt would come at middleweight. However, following a series of failed weight cuts in the welterweight division, the Kings MMA talent took his skills back up a division and has put together some serious success in the time since.

Gastelum has gone 4-1 at middleweight (although one win was later overturned due to a drug test failure for marijuana). Now he’s set to coach what is likely the final season of the Ultimate Fighter against champion Robert Whittaker, with a fight between the two men scheduled for late this year. And while coaching is a role he’ll take seriously - he’s already been through it once before for TUF Latin America - Season 2 - it’s not an experience Gastelum sounds like he’s especially relishing.

“I like that I’m doing whatever it takes to get the title shot,” Gastelum answered, candidly, when asked if he liked coaching TUF.

“I feel like a lot of people are kind of unfortunately ‘over’ the Ultimate Fighter,” Gastelum added, when asked for his thoughts on the show’s final season. “It’s kinda been dull, boring. That’s how I feel. I don’t know how spectators feel, but that’s how I felt. I felt like I’m going to try my best to bring back a sparkle to what the Ultimate Fighter is.”

As for his expectations for the fight with Whittaker afterwards? It’s unlikely that Gastelum is taking the ‘Reaper’ lightly in any way, but he did question whether the champion can return to form following two brutal fights with Yoel Romero - both of which have been accompanied by significant injuries as a result of each bout.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be the same fighter after these fights,” Gastelum said of his opponent, “after these wars that he’s been in. It takes a toll on the body. So, we’ll see how he comes out after this hand surgery that he had.”

Win or lose, however, it doesn’t necessarily sound like the title challenger has his heart set on staying at middleweight, despite all the success that both he and Whittaker have had there as former welterweights. “I wouldn’t rule it out,” Gastelum replied when asked about going back down to 170.

“I just felt like when I was cutting down, I thought I could get away with a snack here and there, but I know that I’ve matured and I’ve learned. I feel like if I did the cut now and I did the diet, then I’d be okay.”

Not that his newfound maturity has stopped the 26-year-old from poking fun at himself for his past dietary indiscretions...

Gastelum also talked about rising star Israel Adesanya, along with a top prospect waiting for her turn to break out of the Kings MMA gym, and some more details on the upcoming TUF season. So check the whole interview out.