Las Vegas, NV — French middleweight Nassourdine Imavov enters his first UFC main event this Saturday, and things haven’t exactly gone off without a hitch.
Imavov (12-3) was supposed to face Kelvin Gastelum to kick off the promotion’s 2023 at UFC Vegas 67. But when Gastelum suffered a mouth injury, including a knocked out tooth, in the days leading up to the event, Sean Strickland stepped in.
“It’s okay. I was a little bit sad when it got announced that Gastelum was out; we spent like two hours without knowing who is the next opponent,” Imavov said of the switch, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press during Wednesday’s media day. “When I had the confirmation that it was Strickland, everything went great.”
And, of course, Imavov is well aware that fighting Strickland, even up a weight class (the short-notice nature of the bout saw it moved to 205lbs) means more in terms of divisional rankings. Strickland, after all, is ranked #7 at middleweight. Gastelum sits outside the top ten at #13.
“I will have a lot of steps when I win the fight,” noted Imavov. “I will be ranked better than if I did fight with Gastelum. So I’m very grateful for that.”
Of course, a short notice opponent with a very different style means a very different game plan — but Imavov kept mum on that front.
“I will not disclose all the game plan, but yeah, we thought about a game plan. Basically I will do what I used to do, what I can do, what I can do for me. That’s what I’ll do on Saturday.”
The only real concern Imavov appears to have is Strickland’s trash talk, though how much the French fighter understands, and how much he cares regardless, is a question. Imavov didn’t sound like words would do any more than fuel him, to hear him tell it Wednesday.
“I just have to be careful of what he’s saying, the words that he’s using, the big mouth. That’s it,” Imavov stated. “I heard that he’s starting to speak already with you guys, so I’m pumped. Let’s go!”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 67 media day appearance by Nassourdine Imavov above.