No one expected the youngest man in The Ultimate Fighter house on season 17 to end up winning the whole show. In fact, that guy was the underdog in all of his fights. Yet Kelvin Gastelum won them all and continues to look like one of the best young fighters in MMA today.
Gastelum won TUF 17 as a middleweight but would drop to welterweight immediately after. He would miss weight twice in five fights before going back up to middleweight, but that stay at 185 would not last. Gastelum would fight once against Nate Marquardt then drop back down to 170 for two more fights before now having his last four all at middleweight.
Of those four, Gastelum has won two of them. One of his losses came to former champion, Chris Weidman with the other originally being a TKO win over Vitor Belfort before it was overturned due to Gastelum testing positive for marijuana. His two wins came impressively over Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping, both were defeated by knockout.
When Gastelum fought and knocked out Bisping, he was fresh off of losing his middleweight crown at UFC 217, therefore, giving Gastelum a great name to put on his resume at 185. The twenty-six-year-old Yuma, Arizona native, Gastelum believes it’s time for his first career title shot and he doesn’t care which division it’s in as he told ESPN:
“Just the fight that will get me to the title shot. That’s the fight I want. I know I probably won’t get a title shot next, but I want to fight the #1 contender. If it’s at welterweight, I will make the cut. The cut is dreadful and the diet is extreme, but if it’s worth it, I will do it.”
Gastelum actually has already fought the current welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley and ended up losing a very close split decision. A rematch would definitely be interesting to see what each would do differently with the two additional rounds.
Despite this, Gastelum still has most of his focus on 185 as he named who he would like to fight next and where.
“I would love to fight in Rio, and obviously, a fight with Jacare [Souza] would propel me to where I want to go. I’m scared of that commission, I don’t know what to think of the commission. I should probably talk to someone in the commission or [UFC vice president of regulatory affairs] Marc Ratner. Hopefully, he’d keep me safe and nothing happens to my [drug] samples. I just don’t know what to think of the commission over there.”
In regards to the commission, when Gastelum failed his drug test for the Belfort fight their fight was in Brazil and he has been very vocal about his disagreement with the whole situation.
Assuming he ends up getting a middleweight title shot at some point, Gastelum says he likes the idea of his vs Robert Whittaker.
“Two young dogs going at it for the strap would be nice. We haven’t hit our prime yet, and the rest of the guys are on their way out. I still feel like I’m in the beginning stages of my career. But I’m obviously not mad if Yoel takes the fight. He just beat the # 1 contender, which was Luke [Rockhold].”
What do you like next for Kelvin?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/15/2018.