Canada’s Gillian Robertson is coming off a victory many would see as the biggest win of her career: a submission of former two-time UFC women’s strawweight champ “Thug” Rose Namajunas.
It didn’t come in MMA, but rather grappling, with Robertson submitting Namajunas with a rear-naked choke at Fury Pro Grappling 6 at the end of December.
It’s a big accolade, and a confidence boost, but Robertson also knows that it’s two different worlds when it comes to MMA and grappling.
“I know that no matter what, most girls in the MMA world aren’t going to compete with me on the ground. That is my world, and I think there, I showed that there are levels to this when it comes to my kind of grappling,” Robertson (11-7) told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “But when it comes to, with striking and wrestling and just everything into play, it’s a completely different world, and I think you’ve got to give Rose her respect there too, where she’s made it to the belt, and I haven’t quite made that yet.”
Robertson, 27, doesn’t have a belt, but she does hold the record for most submission wins among women in UFC history, as well as within the flyweight division. With that number sitting at 6, Robertson is looking to keep pushing the goal line further ahead.
“That’s my goal constantly, is just to keep pushing that record forward a little bit by little bit. Mackenzie Dern’s not too far behind me there, I think she has four, so I’m not trying to let any girls get close to me, any girls catch up. We’re trying to get the distance in between us.”
Ultimately, Charles Oliveira, who holds the overall submissions record at 16, is the type of target “The Savage” is chasing. “He’s definitely the goal, trying to achieve something like that. And we’re switching weight classes for this next fight, so hopefully we can push it in multiple weight classes like he did too.”
Robertson will drop to strawweight to fight Piera Rodriguez, marking the first time the Canadian will compete at 115lbs since prior to joining the UFC. When it comes to her opponent, a Contender Series alum with an unblemished record, Robertson noted that “she’s definitely had a lot of fights, obviously, you can’t take it away from her— she has an undefeated record. But I don’t think she’s had a match-up like me yet, or been tested by a grappler like me yet.”
“A lot of her match-ups tend to be either more strikers, or they’re not grapplers with my capabilities. So I think she’s going to be in a completely different world when we enter [the cage].” Plus, with the fight at a different weight class, “for once I won’t be the smaller fighter,” Robertson added. “I’m used to looking up to all my opponents, so it’ll be nice to be in there with someone who’s closer to my size.”
That drop in weight, admitted Robertson, is “something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, I guess. It’s always been in my head, always been outside voices trying to push me, to like, ‘go back to strawweight, go back to strawweight, you’re really a strawweight now.’ In my last four or five fights maybe, I’ve walked at heaviest 130 [pounds]. So it’s been an easy cut for me to 125, and I’ve hardly even had to diet.”
The cut to 115 will be a different story. “115 is going to be a big cut for me. I’m definitely 100% strict on my diet, a lot of cardio, changed up that regimen completely. Doing everything possible to make my 115 debut in the UFC go as smoothly as possible.”
If the strawweight experiment does not go as planned, Robertson is not adverse to returning to the flyweight division.
“It’s definitely more of a test to see how it goes. If I don’t feel good at this weight class, then I’m more than happy to go back up to 125,” she told us. “But I’m doing everything in my power to make this process as smooth as possible. Hopefully it goes well, and I’ll find a new home at 115.”
Should she get the desired result at UFC Kansas City on April 15, meanwhile, Gillian Robertson will be gunning for a ranked opponent.
“I’m probably looking somewhere between top 15 and top 10 girls. I just want to see who’s available. So around my fight date, we’re going to look and determine a name that we want, a name that I’m going to call out post-fight. I want definitely someone ranked after this, not a doubt in my mind.”
Watch our full interview with UFC Kansas City strawweight Gillian Robertson above.