Gastelum: Adesanya Defeat Burns In My Soul
Just over one year on from their epic UFC 236 meeting, and Kelvin Gastelum is still haunted by his defeat to Israel Adesanya.
The pair met for the interim middleweight title in what was a back-and-forth war which many regard as one of the greatest fights of all time. Although Gastelum had his moments, he would ultimately fail in the last hurdle, getting dropped multiple times in the final round to lose a unanimous decision.
While he is proud of his effort, the fact that he was so close still hurts the 28-year-old.
“I’m very proud of the effort that I put in that fight and what we did in that fight despite the circumstances, and I’m very proud of that fight because I got to do a lot of things that I haven’t been able to do in a lot of other fights,” Gastelum told MMA Junkie. “I’m very proud of it. At the same time though, this is not why I got into the sport, to say and look back, ‘I almost did it. I was this close.’ No, man. I’m not going to be one of those people.
“I’m not really worried about it right now, but when people ask me, and they’re like, ‘You were this close,’ it sucks. It burns in my soul. It burns in my heart to know I was that close, and I just won’t let it happen again.”
Gastelum would return to action seven months later but put in an underwhelming performance in a unanimous decision defeat to Darren Till at UFC 244.
And in hindsight, he feels he should have taken a bit more time off to recover from the damage he accumulated against Adesanya.
“I feel like after the Israel fight, I was eager to get back and prove something because I lost, but it didn’t work out in my favor,” Gastelum said. “I lost the Darren Till fight, and I feel like after the Darren Till fight, I realized, ‘Man, maybe I should have taken some more time to kind of heal from that beating I took last April.’ After that fight, I should have taken more time off.
“I was really eager. I had done more damage to my body than I probably realized. I wasn’t there mentally. I wasn’t there physically or emotionally in the Darren Till fight. I don’t even feel like I lost to him, just because of the way that I felt. I didn’t feel like really being there, to be honest.”
However, Gastelum is looking to get back to winning ways now. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is no telling when the fight schedule will resume.
But when things return to normal, he is hoping to face a top contender and get right back in the title picture. Jared Cannonier is one name that stands out for him.
“He’s at that level,” Gastelum added. “He’s a dangerous guy, and everybody recognizes how dangerous he is. That would be another big name. If you beat him, you’re right there, too, you know? That would be another guy.
“I don’t know. There’s a couple options. I just don’t know who the matchmakers would want me to match up with for the next fight, but I mean, I’m hoping for anybody: Robert Whittaker, Jared Cannonier, Jack Hermansson.”
A win against any of those names should put Gastelum right in the swing of things.