UFC flyweight Gillian ‘The Savage’ Robertson intends to join the title hunt within the next two years.
Canada’s own Gillian Robertson will be fighting in her home country at UFC 240 in Edmonton at the end of the month. When she does, it will be her first time fighting on Canadian soil, and a nice break from competing in enemy territory. Taking on Brazilian Sarah Frota, Robertson is looking to claim her fourth win in the UFC’s flyweight division, which would put her among the winningest fighters in the weight class.
We caught up with Robertson ahead of this weekend’s PPV event, where the 24-year old with the dazzling red hair will face Frota as part of the featured Fight Pass prelim. Fighting at home, she told us, “it’s definitely going to be nice walking out and not getting booed this time! The last three or four fights, I’ve been in my opponent’s home towns, being the one coming in. Finally I get to be in my home country, being in Canada’s going to be amazing.”
That said, UFC 240 will mark a couple of firsts for Robertson. Her first time fighting in Canada, and her first time visiting the Province of Alberta. “I’ve never been to Edmonton, I’ve never even been on that side of Canada,” Robertson admitted. We’re a pretty vast nation, after all, and Robertson’s family originates from the Niagara region back in Ontario. “All the way on the other side of Canada.”
She might get a chance to explore a little. While she’s been focused on her fight, “I usually do explore a little bit when I’m out there, just keep my mind entertained, and off the weight cut,” ‘The Savage’ told us.
Her last fight came in February, and Robertson got back to her winning ways with a rear-naked choke submission of Veronica Macedo. Despite winning, however, Robertson had a few issues with her showing that night in Prague.
“There’s a lot of things I took away from that bout. Honestly I’m not necessarily proud of my performance in that fight,” she admitted. “I feel like I made a lot of mistakes that I necessarily shouldn’t be making, mistakes that I don’t make in the gym, that Veronica was very explosive and able to capitalize on.”
For starters, Robertson continued, “I feel like it was too much of a jiu-jitsu fight, and I’m not happy about that. I want to be an MMA fighter. I’m not necessarily saying that I want to stand up on the feet, but I want to be able to do damage on the ground at least. I want to be able to utilize my ground n’ pound more, and be able to showcase that more.”
That was our next question. With five submissions in six wins, she’s going for the knockout, right? Well, maybe not a one-punch KO, Robertson admitted. “It’d definitely be nice. I feel like if it does come to me, it’s probably going to be sitting on top of them punching.”
But it’s all part of the evolution of her game, one she is watching with a keen eye. Those mistakes in the Macedo, fight, she said, were “just little things. I know she was able to sweep me one time, I went for a head and arm choke, and then she was able to sweep my and I ended up on bottom again. I usually always post my arm up, to the side when I do that, and for some reason I didn’t post my arm when I went for the head and arm choke. It made it so she was able to sweep me.”
“Just little tiny mistakes that I feel like nobody in the crowd would necessarily notice,” she continued, “but me nitpicking my own style, I’m going to definitely notice every little tiny thing I did wrong.”
She’s her own worst critic. “Oh 100%. I hate watching any of my fights. When ever you meet somebody new, they’re always like ‘oh let me see a fight!’ and the only fight where I feel like I’ve performed in is my fight against Molly McCann. Other than that, I feel like I hate showing anybody my fights.”
She’s not alone, of course. “We’re our own biggest critics, I’m sure they’re not as bad as I think, but I just hate watching a lot of them.” Which is stunning, when you realize that Robertson has won three out of four UFC fights to date.
Some of Gillian Robertson’s success, no doubt, is thanks to coach Din Thomas, one of the best in the business. Robertson credits him with molding her into the fighter she is today. And the good news is, she plenty of time with Thomas in this camp. And plenty of time, period. “My last two camps have been three or four weeks notice. This one has been ten weeks notice. Din has been with me that whole time.”
While Thomas would take a bit of time off to help Greg Hardy at UFC San Antonio a week before Roberson’s fight, “we’ve gotten in a long camp this time, and I’m more than ready”
Working with a coach with the pedigree of Thomas has been a huge boost to Robertson’s confidence. “I worked with Din Thomas since day one. He’s literally brought me from absolutely nothing. I volunteered with animals, wanting to be a vet for the rest of my life, and he changed me completely into the fighter I am today. So I owe him everything.”
Robertson, who has volunteered at horse rescues, wildlife rescues, and the humane society, and whose dad is still to this day the manager at a humane society, may look to get back into that field somewhere down the line, in some far away future. Her best friend, after all, is her Pitbull. But for now, she’s focused on fighting. And that journey continues at UFC 240 — arguably the biggest card of her career.
The only drawback, Robertson pointed out, is that “I’m on the Fight Pass prelims again, so that didn’t make me happy necessarily. But it’s definitely awesome to be on a big card, to be on a card with Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar is absolutely unreal. I’m almost more excited for their fight than I am for my own. That’s going to be an amazing fight to be able to watch and I’m super excited to be on that card.”
Sarah Frota is the woman in Gillian Robertson’s way in Edmonton, and fight fans might remember that she tried, and failed, to make the strawweight limit last time out. Badly. It’s not something she’s worried about at the moment, however. After all, Frota is moving up a weight class to fight her.
“I guess you just cross that bridge when you get to it. Her last fight she weighed at 123, so her coming up to 125, I’m hoping she’ll make weight,” said Robertson. There are still concerns, of course. “Sometimes you’ll see fighters where they think ‘Oh I can put on a little bit extra muscle because I am coming up to the higher weight class,’ and then they wind up missing weight at the higher weight class anyway. Hopefully she makes weight, and no matter what, the fight’s on.”
There you have it. ‘The Savage’ didn’t earn that nickname for nothing. And while she would look to show a little more savagery in her striking, she also knows what her bread and butter is. “I feel like I definitely will display a little bit more standup, but no matter what, I always have the same goal. I’m always headed toward the throw, and headed towards the back. I’d like to do more damage on the way there, but usually I’m pretty good at forcing girls to give that to me.”
1 week left Canada 🇨🇦 Cant wait ❤ pic.twitter.com/MG0WrX5YYz
— Gillian Robertson (@savage_ufc) July 20, 2019
Her prediction, then, is that “I’m definitely calling it rear-naked choke. My last two rear-naked chokes I’ve got, I’ve said first round, and it always ended up being second round, so I’m going to say second round this time.”
Which means, it will probably end up being in the first round after all. “Hopefully!” she agreed with a laugh.
If there’s one thing that gives Robertson an edge Saturday beyond her technical skills, it might just be quality of competition. Early on, she fought future UFC fighters Cynthia Calvillo and Hannah Cifers. On The Ultimate Fighter 26, she took on Barb Honchak.
“I appreciate every single fight I’ve ever gotten. I’ve never denied a fight,” Robertson said of those early tests. “When I fought Calvillo, it was on five days notice. No matter what I’m always up for the experience, up for the competition, and it’s made me into the fighter I am today. My record doesn’t necessarily look as threatening as I am.”
And if that continues, she could be in title contention in the next year or two. “I definitely feel like that’s a possibility in 2020. I would accept the fight against Valentina [Shevchenko] today, but I feel like that’s a very tough match-up today. But give it a year, give it two years, I’m definitely going to be in the picture for the title shot.” In a sport where timing is everything, she’d just be hitting the start of her prime.
Of course, nothing is certain, not even title shots these days, something Robertson acknowledged when the subject of champ Shevchenko vs. Liz Carmouche was brought up. Carmouche was expected to meet Roxanne Modafferi at UFC San Antonio on July 20. Instead, she was moved over to UFC Uruguay, to fight for the title.
“It does surprise me that the UFC does that in general. I know they did the same thing when Aspen Ladd and Holly were supposed to fight, then they pulled that for Amanda,” Robertson said. “It’s not necessarily fair to the other fighter, but it’s a good shot for Liz. She beat Valentina before, so she has a big chance to do it again.”
However, Robertson would still pick Shevchenko in that fight. Having gone the distance with Amanda Nunes twice, “you don’t see girls doing that. She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.”
As for her own future, without looking too far past Sarah Frota, “I would love to fight as often as possible. Unfortunately the UFC’s been keeping me on the six month schedule. If I could get one before the end of the year that would be absolutely amazing.”
There’s a number of opponents that interest her. “I’m really open to fighting anyone. The last four month, five months that I’ve been waiting for a fight, I’ve called out Paige VanZant, Maycee Barber, Montana De La Rosa, and I feel like all three of those girls are great match-ups for me, and I’m ready for it.”
UFC 240, featuring Gillian Robertson vs. Sarah Frota, takes place Saturday, July 27 at the Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. The main card airs live on PPV, following prelims on ESPN/TSN, and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.