Kelvin Gastelum does not live with regret. But the day after his defeat against Darren Till last November, he knows he probably should have sat down.
After a five-round war with Israel Adesanya at UFC 236, Gastelum booked his next fight six months later. He didn’t really feel like himself after failing to win the middleweight title.
“I realized that I should have taken more time after my fight against Israel,” said Gastelum in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I felt like I needed to prove something after I lost this title fight, and I sort of rushed over there in a fight against Darren Till.
“Obviously, it didn’t work in my favor. I was not very emotionally involved in this fight. Obviously, I trained for this fight, and Darren Till had a great game plan for me and how to neutralize my game. I realized after this fight, I should have taken more free time. “
The three-round fight ended in a split decision loss and consecutive setbacks for Gastelum.
“It’s not like he upgraded me,” he said. “He could have gotten a punch more than me or something.” He didn’t outperform me. I don’t feel like he was the best man that night. I just feel like mentally, physically, emotionally, I wasn’t there that night – in addition to having a great game plan. He canceled all the tools I had. “
Never one to stay away from the gym for a long time, Gastelum continued to train after the loss. But in January, he suffered a knee injury that put him out of action. Fortunately, he did not have to go under the knife to repair the damage. But that forced him to sit on the sidelines for a few months.
“I was recovering from a torn LCL in January – I had a full tear,” said Gastelum. “Fortunately, no surgery required. I just did therapy on it and reconstructive therapy on it. It’s about 85 or 90% there.
“I’m just starting to struggle a bit, to start boxing again. I start kicking again. The training resumes a little. Just at the right time. Hopefully by July – I don’t know where this whole pandemic will be by then – but I hope to fight by July. ”
Given the way the fight with Till went, Gastelum is thankful for the free time, even if it was not in ideal circumstances.
“This injury was a kind of disguised blessing, where I was able to take this time off to heal physically, mentally and emotionally after the last year I had,” he said.
Now that he’s back in the gym, Gastelum is impatient to book his next fight so that he can start climbing the middleweight ranks.
After sharing four innings with Adesanya last April, Gastelum was five minutes away from becoming champion, but ultimately failed. The loss still stings, but it also served as motivation to return to another shot of gold.
“You work your whole life toward this type of opportunity, and I lost,” said Gastelum. “It burns me to be as close to a dream you have had for a long time, which is that of world champion. It burns my soul. But at the same time, I don’t want to be one of those guys in 10 years who says, “I was so close, one round away from beating the champion. “
“No, I want to be able to say that I did it. I’m still going to work, I’m going to do another race again. I’m only 28 years old. I don’t even think I have reached my physical peak yet. I feel like I have a lot of room to grow and I’m excited for that. ”
As for the sequel, Gastelum is open to almost any fight against another top middleweight, though there is one name in particular that stands out when he scans the division for potential opponents.
“I like being able to fight anyone in the top five,” said Gastelum. “In my opinion, a fight with Jack Hermansson would make sense. We both suffer losses. He is in the top five. A victory for each of us would take us where we need to go.
“We both have to go up the division, up to Adesanya. I think he’s the one who makes sense, but you never know what matchmakers are thinking. ”