Long-time middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum admits he was hesitant to accept a fight against struggling former welterweight Darren Till.
The pair are set to clash at UFC 244 which takes place on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Darren Till has moved up a division and has taken on a dramatic physical transformation ahead of his middleweight debut.
Nevertheless, Gastelum was a little reluctant to accept this fight.
“At first thought, I was like, ‘I don’t know if it’s worth it for me to accept this kind of fight because he is coming off a two-fight losing streak,’” Gastelum told MMA Junkie.
“I feel like I’m still in title contention, and I feel like I should get one of those top guys, but I want to fight in Madison Square Garden.”
Gastelum last fought at UFC 236 against streaking contender Israel Adesanya. The pair went at it for five rounds, but ‘Stylebender’ ultimately took home the unanimous decision win — and the interim middleweight belt. Adesanya will now be fighting Robert Whittaker for the undisputed title at UFC 243 in October.
On the other hand, Darren Till is coming off a two-fight losing streak in the welterweight division, leaving Gastelum feeling a bit skeptical of the matchup.
“I put a lot of thought on who my opponent is and why I’m fighting him, and will it get me to the title shot — will it get me closer to where I want to go,” Gastelum said.
“I definitely asked those questions, and none of them applied to Darren Till. I don’t think if I win — it’s not going to get me a title shot. It’s not getting me closer. But I just think I need to go out there and make a statement against a guy like Darren Till because of my last performance. I want to go out there, I want to show that I’m still hungry, I’m still in contention, and I’m still one of the best guys around at this weight class.”
In the past, Till has struggled to make the welterweight division’s weight limit, prompting his move to middleweight. Gastelum, who also used to fight at welterweight, believes Till is underestimating the transition between divisions.
“It’s a little scary,” he said. “The guys are a little bit bigger, they hit a little harder, but they are a little slower. It’s a little scary. I don’t think it’ll be an easy transition for him. I think he’s going to have trouble with these bigger guys and competing at this weight class, to be honest.
“I’ve been fighting middleweights my entire career,” Gastelum added. “I went down to welterweight for a little stint, but then I went back up.
“I’m expecting a short fight,” he concluded. “I’m not trying to go and have another war. I’m going to work hard to try so I can be able to put this guy away.”
Who do you think will come out on top when Kelvin Gastelum and Darren Till battle at UFC 244?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 9/6/2019.