UFC flyweight Gillian Robertson has been in what she calls a “unique situation” for her UFC 256 training camp. After coach Din Thomas left American Top Team earlier this year, it’s been a close-knit circle for the Canadian, who works with Thomas, Jose “Shorty” Torres, and really no one else.
“Honestly I haven’t felt more confident going into a fight than I have in my last two, against Cortney Casey and Polyana Viana,” she told Cageside Press ahead of her next bout, which will come at the aforementioned UFC 256 on December 12 against Andrea “KGB” Lee. “Just because I’ve had so much preparation and so much support getting in there. And you just know you’re ready when you’re walking in, so there’s not a doubt in your mind that you’re going to get your hand raised.”
That confidence is something that comes with added one-on-one time. “Din works with me twice a day, just one-on-one or me, him, and Shorty. So being able to get that type of attention from a coach, it really means the world to me,” said Robertson. “I’ve seen myself progress so much in my last two fights. I feel like it shows in my fights.”
Robertson (9-4), at just 25-years old, continues to pile up records in the UFC’s flyweight division. Ahead of her last fight, against Viana, that’s something that finally grabbed more attention, with the Canadian having surpassed Ronda Rousey’s submission record.
The added attention isn’t something Robertson finds overwhelming. “I guess it is just a sign of me finally getting noticed,” she said. But the Rousey comparison was a welcome one. “She was one of the pioneers, I believe she just got signed to the UFC whenever I was having my first amateur fights. She was really the one of who opened doors for us. To see that I broke one of her records, that’s mind-blowing to me.”
When it comes to those records, they’re a byproduct of the Florida-based fighter’s quest for perfection. At the same time, added Robertson, “I’m just trying to get these records to the point where no other girls can catch up.”
The submission record at 125lbs is one that is near and dear to her. “For most submissions, I think I have one more than most girls in the division. I’m trying to put that record way out of reach, so nobody can even get close to it.”
In essence, the Canadian is looking to be the Wayne Gretzky of MMA. Untouchable records. “Essentially yes,” Robertson said with a laugh. She is, after all, a fighter known for her “throat cuddles.”
Ahead of her showdown with Andrea Lee, there’s a feeling of excitement in the air when it comes to Gillian Robertson. “The Savage” has always been vocal about staying active. She’s getting a relatively quick turnaround at UFC 256, against a well-known name in “KGB.”
“I feel like this is one of the biggest-name match-ups that I’ve gotten. This kind of shows that I might be ready to move on to the next step, and the UFC is trying to test me,” Robertson opined. “All of her recent losses are to girls that are in the top five. She usually beats girls that don’t really belong there. I guess this will show where I’m at in the rankings.”
The fight is one that coach Din Thomas has wanted for Robertson for a while. “It was on his radar, definitely,” said Robertson. “We were just waiting, waiting, waiting. I think it was two days before it was announced that I got the call. It was definitely short-notice.”
Despite Lee’s more recent struggles, Robertson still sees her as a “very serious opponent,” she noted. “I fee like KGB is always a gamer. She’s going into the fight, she’s going to give you the fight where ever she’s at. Even if she’s on her back, which isn’t ideal for her, she’s going to still fight. I just know when you’re attacking, you’re giving me opportunities, so you’re going to give me an opening, and that’s when I capitalize.”
With the records she has put together — finishes, submissions, wins (tied with Katlyn Chookagian), and overall fights (also a tie), Robertson also knows what a win against Lee could mean moving forward. “I feel like it definitely sets me up for a fight higher up the rankings,” she said. “I’m assuming it would be a top five opponent that I’d be looking at after this.”
Interestingly enough, Robertson expressed some dissatisfaction following her last fight, a unanimous decision win over Polyana Viana. In the end, it all comes down to the bout having gone the full fifteen minutes.
“It’s my first UFC fight that’s ever went to a decision, so that was frustrating for me. My goal is to always finish,” explained Robertson. “I’m always trying to get her out of there and show her that she doesn’t belong. The fact that I wasn’t able to do that, get a dominant victory — I had fun being able to perform, I got to go out there and do what I love, I’m thankful for that — but it just wasn’t the victory I was looking for.”
On the plus side, the performance was savage enough to earn her the step up she has at UFC 256 — and from there, the sky is the limit for a fighter who hasn’t even hit her prime years yet.
In the meantime, Robertson has kept herself busy sharpening all areas of her game — including a focus on recovery and mental preparation.
“I try to focus on my body, try to stretch, and just take care of myself. I realize as I’m getting to 25 that I should have listened to the people that told me to take care of my body when I was 16.” It’s rather important, given Robertson is training two to three times a day, which gives her little time for anything else.
Robertson does, however, read up on mental preparation and focus. “Getting yourself mentally focused, and in the zone, and being 100% there and in the moment. Creating the right reactions and creating the right decisions.” Among the literature Robertson has been combing through of late, Relentless by Tim Grover — trainer to the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. “I feel like every pro athlete needs to read that.”
While reading up on the subject is something Robertson says she’s always dabbled in, she didn’t take it seriously until her first UFC loss, to Mayra Bueno Silva.
“I feel like I’m better than that girl, and I just mentally broke down. I wasn’t there in that fight,” admitted Robertson. “It doesn’t look like me when you watch that fight. I knew in that moment I needed to do something to combat these nerves, combat these anxieties that in my mind. I really wanted to take a strong approach to the mental game at that point.”
It’s all about producing a change in the way you’re thinking, Robertson explained. In the Silva fight, after her opponent got back up from a takedown, Robertson’s reaction was “‘oh, she’s strong.’ I was thinking of that in a negative manner.” In comparison, when “The Savage” faced Polyana Viana in her last fight, her thought process was “oh, she’s strong, but I’m still going to take her down.”
Gillian Robertson faces Andrea “KGB” Lee at UFC 256 on Saturday, December 12 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.