The story of UFC Fight Island 2 is very much one of redemption. In the main event, Deiveson Figueiredo is seeking to redeem himself after missing weight for his first flyweight title fight back in February — a fight he won, only to be denied the title by coming in heavy. For his opponent, Joseph Benavidez, the redemption story is more about overcoming that setback, and the other title fights he has struggled in, to finally claim gold in what is likely his last shot at a belt.
Kelvin Gastelum has admitted to feeling something similar ahead of his fight with Jack Hermansson. Gastelum has lost two straight, lost out on a chance at the middleweight title, then lost to Israel Adesanya for interim gold. He had to face some demons after those losses, and is looking to prove to himself that he belongs among the top of the division.
Which brings us to Jack Hermansson (20-5), who was a stone’s throw away from a title shot when he lost to Jared Cannonier last September in Demark.
He’s looking for a little redemption of his own no doubt. And knows that a big win in his co-main event fight Saturday with Gastelum can put him right back in the mix. Speaking to Cageside Press at the UFC Fight Island 2 virtual media day, Hermansson agreed with that assessment.
“Definitely. If I win this fight in a great fashion I believe that I’m back right where I was,” he said. In his mind, he foresees how the 185lb division will play out in the near future. “I can just see a natural development up there at the top. I feel like [Israel] Adesanya’s gonna fight [Paulo] Costa. Then Cannonier needs a title fight and of course we have the fight between [Darren] Till and [Robert] Whittaker. And I should fight the winner of that fight then be the next contender.”
Up first comes Gastelum, who “brings very dangerous hands,” Hermansson opined when asked about the dangers Kelvin poses. “I think that’s his most dangerous weapon. But he also has the wrestling background, so he can have that as well, and he has a black belt in jiu-jitsu. So he’s an all-around fighter. He’s fought some of the best, and has done very good. So he’s a tough fighter.”
So was Cannonier. You win or you learn, as the saying goes. That loss snapped a four-fight win streak for “The Joker,” who talked about what he took away from the fight. “It was mostly a mental thing, where I feel like I need to trust the work that we’re putting in, in my training. To be able to follow the game plan, basically. That’s one of the most important things I took from that fight.”
But asked if he was feeling any additional pressure, especially with Robert Whittaker and Darren Till throwing down a week after his own fight, Hermansson said he wasn’t. Not extra pressure, anyway. “I feel like the pressure is there all the time. I put the pressure on myself. I know what the goals are. I don’t feel more pressure now than before, but the pressure is always there.”
As to who gets their redemption, we’ll find out Saturday night.
Watch the full UFC Fight Island 2 virtual media day press scrum with Jack Hermansson above.