The Weight Cutting Chronicles: Kelvin Gastelum Returns to Welterweight After Over 7 Years Away

Kelvin Gastelum UFC
Kelvin Gastelum weighs in as his coach Rafael Cordeiro closely looks on Credit: Marcus Rebelo/Cageside Press

Like it or not, weight-cutting is deeply rooted in mixed martial arts. MMA adopted its weight-cutting from the sport of wrestling, where it is presumed to be very advantageous to be the biggest and strongest in your weight class. Known as the ‘fight before the fight,’ most UFC fighters cut anywhere from 5-25 pounds, with some fighters even in excess of 30 pounds.

Weight-cutting is the ultimate test of discipline and willpower. Many fighters in the sport consider it very unprofessional to miss weight.

In this series, we will shine a light on select fighters who cut a massive amount of weight, who have missed weight multiple times in the past, who have made weight-class changes, along with how the weight-cut and weigh-in could affect possible upcoming match-ups. Basically, every aspect of weight-cutting and how it affects the fight game.

Kelvin Gastelum (18-8 MMA, 12-8 UFC)

Welterweight (170lbs.): 5-1 (UFC), Missed weight 3x in UFC

Catchweight (180lbs.): 0-1 (UFC) *(Result of badly missing weight)

Middleweight (185lbs.): 7-6, 1 NC (UFC), 4-0 (TUF), Former UFC Title Challenger, The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 Winner

Kelvin Gastelum has long been a fighter that was mentioned among the names of one of the most talented athletes in the UFC. From Gastelum’s flawless TUF tournament performances, to his 5-1 run at welterweight, to his stellar 2019 fight of the year contender against a future title holder in Israel Adesanya, Gastelum has been a fighter that fans would be wise to watch.

Unfortunately, Gastelum is 2-4 since that 2019 fight with Adesanya. And though Kelvin boasted a winning effort and put on a great performance in his last bout against Chris Curtis; the injuries, fight cancellations, and losses against top competition have severely stalled his 185lb title aspirations.

Gastelum began his career with the promotion at middleweight as he competed at 185lbs for the TUF tournament. Kelvin would drop down to 170lbs for his first ‘official’ fight in the UFC.

At 170lbs, Gastelum would go win four in a row before not only missing weight by 9lbs against Tyron Woodley and forcing a catchweight bout, but also suffering a defeat. Dana White would tell Kelvin that he would have to move up in weight, severely slowing his ascent to the top ranks of the welterweight division.

In 2016 Kelvin would again badly miss weight against Donald Cerrone resulting in fight being cancelled. And once again prompting UFC brass to take action.

“I’ll never let him fight at 170 again.”

Dana White told Fox Sports just that ahead of UFC 205 back in 2016 looking both shocked and overwhelmed.

Kelvin Gastelum has been at middleweight ever since. Kelvin, standing at 5’9″ tall, and equipped with a 71.5″ reach is one of the most physically disadvantaged middleweights in the UFC. Gastelum is built like a tank or a brick wall with his large muscular torso and midsection.  With a strong wrestling background and solid boxing and still somehow just 32 years old Kelvin has a real shot to contend in his return to 170lbs.

Kelvin spoke to media outlets for media day for UFC Austin on November 30th, acknowledging his previous weight cutting woes and where he feels he belongs.

“This has always been my division. I had success at middleweight, so I stayed there and stayed complacent. It didn’t work out for me in the end, so I had to get out of my comfort zone a little bit and dedicate myself to my diet a little more. This has always been my rightful weight class, man”

When Gastelum competes against Sean Brady on December 2nd it will have been seven years, four months and 23 days since the last time he fought in the UFC at 170lbs.