Las Vegas, NV — UFC middleweight Kelvin Gastelum knows that he’s entering a different phase of his career.
It’s easy to forget that Gastelum (15-6, 1NC), who has been with the promotion since 2013, is still in the midst of his prime. On the right side of 30, still just 29-years old. There are plenty of fights ahead, if he wants them. But having fought for the middleweight belt in a Fight of the Year (2019) effort against Israel Adesanya, only to lose that and his following two bouts, Gastelum is in a very different place career-wise these days.
For one, he’s no longer the hunter, but the hunted, in a way. In the sense that the former Ultimate Fighter winner is now considered a veteran. “It’s crazy to think about, but yes, I guess so. I feel like for this fight, now I’ve got an up-and-comer trying to chase me. Whereas before, I was the up-and-comer trying to chase these guys,” Gastelum admitted during the UFC 258 media day. “I definitely feel like the tides have turned a little bit.”
Despite his current three-fight skid, he’s never questioned his abilities. “Not for a second. I know who I am and I know how good I can be.” But as Kelvin Gastelum heads into his main card tilt with Ian Heinisch at UFC 258, he also recognizes that changes had to be made.
For one, stop thinking too far ahead. Be in the present. “I feel like for my past two fights, I’ve maybe got away from that a little bit. My loss after Israel, I wanted to get right back on the horse, and I fight Darren Till. I knew that, if I win, it might have propelled me to where I needed to be,” explained Gastelum. “Same thing with the Jack Hermansson fight, I knew that I needed to get back on a win streak.”
“I just focused more ahead, instead of being present and focusing on my actual opponent,” he concluded. Which is not a mistake he’ll make again.
With Heinisch, Gastelum has a less familiar foe, one who won his way into the UFC via the Contender Series. He’s watched some tape, and familiarized himself with his opponent.
“I think he’s got very good skills for sure. At this level, no fight is easy. Every fight is different. There’s a couple things that stood out for sure, that I think he does really well,” said Gastelum, without specifying what, in particular, that Heinisch does that really stands out.
While Gastelum looks to work his way back up the ladder, his fall from the top of the division has not gone unnoticed by fans. They’ve made their voices heard — and Gastelum recently re-posted a message regarding those so-called “fans” on his own social media account.
Reading some of these tweets by so called "fans" of the sport and always shitting on fighters after losses! They sound like cunts and when you click on their profile pictures they look like cunts! #UFCVegas18
— John Maguire (@MaguireTheOne) February 7, 2021
“The criticism whether you win or lose is always there. You could be saving children around the world, and people would still find a way to criticize that,” the middleweight said of some of the complaints directed his way. In the end, it’s all about ignoring the garbage that comes with social media. “You get a tweet, or you get a comment on your Instagram, it kind of messes with you a little bit mentally. You kind of have to just, reject those thoughts and reject those feelings you get with it.”
Gastelum admits that the negativity that comes with social media impacted him more when he was younger. He would read the comments a little more often. But he soon realized that “that’s just the internet culture, and no one’s going to be able to change it. It is what it is.”
Watch the full UFC 258 media day press scrum with Kelvin Gastelum above. The event takes place this Saturday, February 13 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.