Facing off against one another this weekend at UFC on ESPN+ 30, both Jack Hermansson and Kelvin Gastelum have a lot on their plate right now. One fighter is ready to prove the fight between the two middleweights can steal the show, while the other is looking to get back into the swing of things, in the ring and life.
Hermansson (20-5) and Gastelum (15-5, 1 NC) will be fighting in the co-main event on July 18 on “Fight Island” the third event in Abu Dhabi. For the Swedish fighter from Norway in Hermansson, this fight is his long-awaited return. “The Joker” was supposed to fight back in May against Chris Weidman, but the card in Oklahoma was postponed as a result of the coronavirus. His last fight was in September, losing to Jared Cannonier via TKO.
Ranked sixth in the UFC’s middleweight rankings, Hermansson was on a four-fight win streak before the loss. With eleven wins via knockout, every fight is important. Hermansson is not taking Gastelum lightly, even if he is 2-3 with one no-contest in his last six fights.
“I’m expecting the best Kelvin,” Hermansson stated to MMA Junkie. “That’s what I need to do, and his performance against Adesanya, even though he lost, was a great one, and I think that’s the Kelvin that I’m going to face on Saturday.”
“I picture myself in a hard, tough battle, but at the same time, I’m going to look for the finish from the start to the end, so my goal is to finish the fight.”
A state championship wrestler, Gastelum made his MMA debut in 2010. He was able to make a name for himself in 2013, winning The Ultimate Fighter Middleweight Tournament. Including his debut, Gastelum is 10-5 with one no-contest with the UFC. His career has taken an interesting turn since facing Vitor Belfort in 2017. Testing positive for a marijuana metabolite, a win was overturned.
Since losing to Chris Weidman in his hometown, Gastelum rebounded fast against Michael Bisping and Ronaldo Souza. That quickly earned him a shot at the UFC Middleweight Title, but Robert Whittaker had to back out. He then fought for the interim Middleweight Title, facing Israel Adesanya. Looking like he could have won, Adesanya came back in epic fashion. A few months later, Gastelum would lose to Darren Till in New York City. It all took a toll on him.
“Last year in February, I was supposed to fight for the title. In my head, I was going to be the world champion,” Gastelum stated, via MMA Fighting. “Then that didn’t happen. Fought in April, lost. Fought in November and lost.
“I think I did go through a little bit of depression. I gained like 30 pounds. Had an injury. Had to recover from that. So I had to battle some demons in my off time.”
During all of this, Gastelum was fined by the New York Atheltic Commission for his part in weigh-ins at UFC 244. He held onto his trainers which would affect the weight cut. He then accepted another suspension for a marijuana violation. Gastelum ended up working through his own demons that were a result of outside and internal factors.
Now, the 28-year-old, who is ranked seventh in the bantamweight rankings, is ready to show the best version of himself. It may take time, but one night may make a difference.
“I’m actually in a really good place, mentally and physically, which really wasn’t the case for my last two fights,” Gastelum went on to say. “I’m not putting any excuses. There’s a lot of things that go behind the scenes for a lot of fighters but it’s in the past, it’s neither here nor there.
“Now I’m in a good place mentally, physically. I feel really good coming into this fight. I battled [my demons], I conquered them, and here I am, ready to go.”
Yas Island will host UFC on ESPN+ 30. The main event will be a rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez for the interim UFC Flyweight Title.