Six months after a five-round thriller against Israel Adesanya, UFC middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum looked decidedly lackluster in his split decision loss to Darren Till at UFC 244. If Gastelum could do it all over again, he would’ve had a longer layoff between fights.
In an interview with MMA Fighting, Gastelum reflected on his performance vs. Till, and why he believes he should not have returned so soon after his defeat to Adesanya.
“I realized I should have taken more time off after my fight against Israel,” Gastelum said. “I felt like I needed to prove something after losing that title fight, and I kind of rushed myself back in there in a fight against Darren Till.
“Obviously, it didn’t work out in my favor. I wasn’t very emotionally invested in that fight. Obviously, I trained for that fight, and Darren Till had a great game plan for me and how to neutralize my game. I realized after that fight, I should have taken more time off.”
“It’s not like he outclassed me,” he said. “He might have landed one punch more than me or something. He didn’t outclass me. I don’t feel like he was the better man that night. I just feel like mentally, physically, emotionally, I was not there that night – on top of him having a really great game plan. He nullified all of the tools that I had.”
The 28-year-old also revealed that he suffered an LCL tear at the start of the year, so that’s largely forced him to remain on the sidelines. As the UFC looks to return to a normal fight schedule starting next week, Gastelum is targeting a summer return.
“I’ve been recovering from a torn LCL back in January – I had a full tear,” Gastelum revealed. “No surgery needed, thankfully. Just been doing therapy on it and reconstructive therapy on it. It’s about 85 or 90 percent there.
“I’m just starting to grapple a bit, starting to box again. I’m starting to kick again. Training is picking back up a little bit. Just at the right time. Hopefully by July — I don’t know where this whole pandemic thing will be by then — but I’m hoping to fight by July.”
Gastelum added that he wants a top-five opponent, preferably Jack Hermansson, who was scheduled to face Chris Weidman before the coronavirus pandemic nixed that bout. It’s unknown whether or not the UFC will rebook Hermansson vs. Weidman or do a detour and have Gastelum take on Jack instead.