UFC Prague: Gillian Robertson Earning More Air Miles for Veronica Macedo Bout, Wants Paige VanZant in Miami

Gillian Robertson, UFC Sao Paulo UFC Prague
SAO PAULO, SP - 22.09.2018: UFC FIGHT NIGHT MARRETA X ANDERS - Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Gillian Robertson during UFC Fight Night Marreta X Anders held at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, SP. (Photo: Reinaldo Reginato/Fotoarena) Credit: Foto Arena LTDA/Alamy Live News

Fighting on the road yet again, this time at UFC Prague, flyweight Gillian Robertson is focused on Veronica Macedo — but would love a shot against Paige VanZant in Miami.

Gillian Robertson (5-3) turned a lot of heads when she started her UFC career at 2-0. In the fledgling flyweight division, that put her to the front of the pack. And while she fell short in her third outing against Mayra Bueno Silva in Sao Paulo, Brazil last September, it’s worth noting that the first loss of her UFC tenure came on short notice. At UFC Prague this weekend, Robertson will look to get back on track — and back in the title hunt, despite being just twenty-three years old.

How a Canadian girl transplanted to Florida wound up the in UFC is a story that seems to take even Robertson, nicknamed ‘The Savage,’ by surprise. “I moved to Florida when I was six or seven years old,” she told Cageside Press ahead of her scrap against Veronica Macedo in Prague this weekend. Her father’s family still resides in the Niagara region, north of the border.

Moving with her parents at such a young age, she never trained in Canada. That started “when I was sixteen years old, down in Florida. How it went to the UFC, I really have no idea,” she recalled with a laugh.

“I feel like I started with a cardio kickboxing class, and I just kept on going along with it. Took my first amateur fight, and then after I finished my amateur career, that’s when I feel like I knew that I was made for this,” Robertson explained. It’s hard to argue against the idea that she’s made for the sport. Her mentality is near-perfect for MMA: get the job done early, get the finish.

Fans were introduced to the girl with the fiery read hair via season twenty-six of The Ultimate Fighter. On that front, Robertson told us that “the show is honestly an absolutely amazing experience, like a once in a lifetime experience.” That’s a common theme from girls on the flyweight season. “I just love that you can so immersed in training. We were training like four hours a day, surrounded by girls who just want to do that same thing. They just want to be there like I do, just learning and getting better.”

She even stays in touch with her former TUF housemates. “All the girls on my team, Team Gaethje, have a group chat together, so we always stay in touch.”

Viewers are no doubt familiar with many of the antics of the men’s seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. For Robertson’s time on the show, however, “there was definitely no drama at all in our house, so that definitely made it easier. I feel like all the girls were mature enough, and just respected each other. Nobody was starting any sh*t, so everything went smooth.”

“I never regret taking a fight. I accept anything that comes to me.”

The stint on TUF led to wins over Emily Whitmire and Molly McMann. Both were submissions victories, which saw Robertson sitting pretty at 125lbs. In September, however, ‘The Savage’ took on Mayra Bueno Silva on short notice at UFC Sao Paulo. Robertson herself was submitted with seconds left in the first round. Despite the loss, however, she doesn’t regret jumping into the bout.

“I never regret taking a fight,” she explained. “I accept anything that comes to me, literally my manager will text me a name, and I just reply yes, I don’t even look her up. I feel like I’m capable of anything.”

That’s not to say there weren’t issues with how the Sao Paulo bout went down. “Looking back on that, I only got to work with my coach, Din Thomas, probably for three or four days during that whole camp,” Robertson revealed. “Because he was up here [in Milwaukee] with Tyron [Woodley].” If anything, the inability to work with her coach as much as she wanted would be the one thing ‘Savage’ would go back and change.

Thomas, she added, “gets me ready more than anybody else.”

After losing in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Gillian Robertson is heading to Prague, Czech Republic. Really collecting those air miles. “I love to travel, I love to see the world,” she told us. “I just wish I didn’t have to do it fight week. It adds extra troubles no matter what.”

Among the issues, “just having to find food even, when you’re cutting weight. You just don’t know the area, it’s completely different, if you can’t speak the same language as somebody, you’re trying to figure out how to get it across that you can’t have any salt, you can’t have any this, it makes the weight cut difficult.” For fighters, making weight is part of the job, and sometimes nearly as difficult as the fight itself.

And while she’s happy to put her skills on display in Prague, a fight closer to home is something she’s aiming for in future. In fact, if she walks out of Prague injury free, she has a date in mind. “I was really looking forward to the Miami card, so hopefully that one.”

Her opponent in Prague, Veronica Macedo, is still looking for her first win in the promotion. She’s 0-2, but Robertson isn’t sure that provides any advantage.

“Yes and no, it depends on how she’s handling it mentally,” Robertson suggested. “She could be coming in a little bit harder because she has two losses already. So she needs to win this. It may add a little bit more urgency to her. But that also might leave her exposed more, so I might be able to get a takedown easier.”

“I feel like it could go either way, it’s how she handles it mentally,” she added. As to whether she sees any weakness in her opponent, Robertson said that “I feel like my ground game is definitely superior to hers. I feel like I’ll be able to dominate positionally, and force her to give me what I want, no matter what. She’s a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, so she has a good foot lock game, but I feel like I’ll be able to win the ground exchanges no matter what.”

I called out Paige VanZant recently, whenever Rachael Ostovich first pulled out, and I would love that match-up.

If she does get her hand raised, a quick return (the Miami card goes down April 27) is the goal. “As long as I’m injury free, I’m ready to fight every other month. I’m always determined to get in there.” As she pointed out, “having six months in between fights can be a little bit frustrating,” especially for someone who fought four times in her first year as a pro.

As for future opponents, “there’s a lot of names out there that interest me. I called out Paige VanZant recently, whenever Rachael Ostovich first pulled out [of UFC Brooklyn, before going through with the fight], and I would love that match-up. So if they wanted to set that up at UFC Miami, that would be perfect for me.”

VanZant eventually got the win over Ostovich in Brooklyn, which was the promotion’s debut on streaming service ESPN+. More recently, ’12 Gauge’ was in Connecticut, cornering husband Austin Vanderford at Bellator 216. Paige looked to be in great shape, and could very well be looking for a fight. Time will tell if Robertson gets her wish.

One thing that is certain is that “the flyweight division is definitely wide open.” That makes it a land of opportunity. As Gillian sees it, “Valentina [Shevchenko] is definitely going to be dominant, until I get up there maybe. But I feel like a lot of the girls just aren’t at that next level yet. I’m not saying that I am, but I know that I can get there.”

On the flip side, there’s no rush. “I’m still young in this sport, I have tons of time to climb the ranks, you know? I’m just ready to take my time, keep on fighting and get my way to the top.”

There was a time, mind you, when the idea of becoming the champ right out of the gate, the youngest ever, motivated her. “It was definitely something that drove me when I tried out for The Ultimate Fighter, that was for the belt. That’s when I was really seeing it as a possibility.”

“If I had won that belt, I would have been the youngest UFC champion ever,” she continued. “I would have been twenty-two years old with the belt. So I really tried to push for it then, but of course I had a tough match-up with Barb Honchak.”

Honchak, long considered one of the best women’s flyweights out there, was recently cut by the UFC. She’d gone 0-2 in her run following The Ultimate Fighter. Robertson, meanwhile, fights on. And coming up short for a shot at the title on TUF 26, then starting strong in the UFC, has taught her a valuable lesson. “I didn’t get the win there, but I know it’s obtainable.”

Gillian Robertson faces Veronica Macedo at UFC Prague (UFC Fight Night 145) on Saturday, February 23, 2019. The event airs live on ESPN+, and TSN in Canada.