Chael Sonnen is very familiar with rising UFC middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum, having coached him on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter. That said, Sonnen claims that for a long time, he couldn’t actually identify the one thing that made Gastelum so good. While it was clear the young fighter had few weaknesses, his true strength was difficult to identify.
“I would watch him every day in practice,” Sonnen said in the latest episode of Beyond the Fight. “I would tell him, ‘Kelvin, I don’t know what it is you’re good at, but I also don’t know what your weaknesses are.’ He was just naturally in very, very good position. He naturally would follow the basics. Hands up, chin down. He naturally was a little bit shorter for the weight class, and it was harder for guys to get underneath him. He naturally just didn’t mind pushing the pace and competing, which is a really big part of it. It’s not just the punches and the kicks. You’ve got to have a competitor, man, you’ve got have a guy who’s got some dog inside of him. He just had all of these things. But I just kept telling him that, and it almost turned into a laughable moment. I’d keep saying that, every time he’d fight, and I was congratulating him, but I’d say ‘man, I’m not positive what it is you’re good at. I just sure can’t find your weakness.’ The guy was impossible to submit, so hard to take down, wouldn’t give up, powerful hands, buried his chin so he could take a shot…”
Eventually, though, with a little help from Ultimate Fighter 17 cast members Tor Troeng and Luke Barnatt, Sonnen was able to identify the one thing Kelvin Gastelum is truly good at.
“It was the semifinals [when I figured it out],” he said, “The last day of filming is the semifinals. You have two matches, so boom, the finals are set, there’s nothing else to film. You go right into the UFC. You settle this thing and somebody is crowned champion. So on the very last day, Kelvin wins, and he makes it to the finals. He’s going to be taking on Uriah Hall, who wins [his semifinal fight], and now we’re all saying our goodbyes. The whole team, everybody is getting ready to go, to go back home after this filming process. Very last day, Luke and Tor walk up to me, right as we’re saying our goodbyes, and they say ‘we know what Kelvin’s good at.’ I stop what I’m doing and I look at them, and say ‘what?’ And they said ‘he’s good at fighting.’ And that’s the one thing about Kelvin Gastelum – you say whatever you want, he may not have any blackbelts in one discipline, but he is good at fighting.”
What do you think of Chael Sonnen’s assessment of Kelvin Gastelum?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 29/11/2017.