It may not be in Saskatoon, the way things are going, but UFC flyweight Gillian Robertson is getting ready to fight somewhere.
“Still business as usual for me. Me and Din [Thomas] have been working every day,” Robertson told Cageside Press recently.
Coach Thomas surprised the MMA community last month by announcing that he was leaving American Top Team, where he worked with the likes of Robertson, and double-champ Amanda Nunes. The young Canadian standout has frequently credited Thomas for her success in the sport, and doesn’t expect their relationship to change.
Robertson will continue to work with the renowned coach “no matter what,” she told us. “I’ve been with Din since I was 16 years old. I’m going to be with Din until I have the belt around my waist, and even after that.”
The plan, Robertson said, is to continue to train at American Top Team, and work with Thomas privately on the side. And for those curious, the move by Thomas wasn’t entirely a surprise to her. “I guess just being so close with him for so many years, I had a little bit of an inkling that it was coming. That he was ready to focus on the fighters that he wanted to focus on.”
“He is the reason that I am the fighter that I am today,” Robertson suggested. High praise, but as Canadian with the fiery red hair pointed out, “high level fighters trust him.” It helps, as well, that the pair’s styles “click,” she added. “He gets me.”
— Gillian Robertson (@savage_ufc) March 25, 2020
Robertson was scheduled to face Taila Santos at UFC Saskatoon on June 20. However, the promotion recently announced, after weeks of fighting the inevitable, that all events have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Robertson had continued training, with added precautions, keeping things one-on-one with her coach. Getting “a lot of drilling work in more than anything else,” she said, given the lack of training partners. On the health side, her and her family have remained safe. “So far everybody’s been doing well and staying healthy.”
“Obviously this whole thing has been scary in general,” she added. “It’s just, it’s brought the whole world to a stop.” Luckily, Robertson hasn’t been too impacted. “I sleep a lot between training,” she said with a laugh, but at the same time, she recognizes that with the economic impact, “there’s no cash flow. There’s nobody going out, nobody making money. It’s going to put a lot of people in hard times right now.”
On her side, money or not, Robertson just wants to make herself better each and every day. “I drain my body putting in the work. I’ll sleep, come home, meditate, or read a little bit, then back to training at night.”
The meditation is something that comes by way of Din Thomas as well. “He has me meditate a lot. He has me visualize a lot, especially if I have a camp coming up. It just helps you ground yourself in general,” she explained. “Especially if I’m in a camp, I’m strict about meditating every single day. You just have more control over your body, and you’re able to put yourself into the zone a little more when you get into the cage.”
That’s a boon for a fighter who describes herself as a “socially anxious person” who doesn’t do well in front of big crowds.
When we spoke, Robertson hadn’t been told anything by the UFC about the card not going forward. “I’m taking it day-by-day right now.” While still planning to fight in Saskatoon, “if it doesn’t work out, I’m assuming that Dana will still be able to pull the fights through in general.”
“Honestly I’ve never really been set on this opponent yet anyway,” Robertson admitted. “It’s just been so far away. I got the fight date four months out. So I’ve been really trying not to think about it. I’d drive myself crazy if I thought about her for four months. I’m waiting til about six to eight weeks out before I start more opponent-specific training.”
“That’s way too much notice!” stated Robertson, who noted that many of her UFC fights have come on two, three, or four weeks’ notice. “Four months notice is absolutely insane! That’s putting me at eight months between fights right now. It’s a lot for me, I’d like to be more active in the UFC.”
If the fight does take place in Canada, it will be one of the few times Robertson has the crowd behind her. She had it at UFC 240, in Edmonton. However, she’s spent much of her career fighting in enemy territory. So the crowd support up in Canada is a welcome change from the “you will die” chants in Brazil. Which is something you don’t see in Canada generally. Maybe “Don’t have a good day, but sorry!” she quipped.
As for Santos, Robertson isn’t concerned about who she fights, as long as she’s fighting. However, she noted that Santos “has a lot of experience, but it’s not a lot of tough fights.”
“She’s a good kickboxer, definitely,” Robertson admitted. “She has 15 wins. A lot of them I don’t feel are notable wins though. She has 13, 14 fights against girls who are like 1-0, 0-1.”
“When she was, I think, 14-0, she fought a girl who was 0-1,” Robertson observed. Santos did get by a more experienced opponent on the Contender Series, a fight “The Savage” has reviewed. But the Brazilian came up short against Mara Romero Borella, a friend of Robertson’s, who she’ll no doubt glean plenty of info from.
Whenever the fight takes place, Robertson hopes it’s on Canadian soil. Not the rumored island destination UFC President Dana White was looking to set up. “I would love that more than anything, to be in front of the Canadian crowd again,” she said. “If it is on an island, I’m betting they don’t have a crowd or anything like that. It’s going to be an awkward scenario just in general.”