How important was Kelvin Gastelum’s win at UFC 287? To him, it was possibly life or death for his time in the promotion.
During his post-fight press conference on Saturday, Gastelum said that he thought a loss against Chris Curtis might have meant the end of his time in the UFC. He mentioned his relief after the fact, knowing that his unanimous decision victory will guarantee his presence in the promotion.
Kelvin Gastelum worried UFC career could have ended on Saturday
“I feel like my job was on the line,” said Gastelum, in a video provided by MMA Fighting. “Knowing that I will hopefully be having a job still, having that security feels good.”
Gastelum has struggled the past few years, albeit against some of middleweight’s top names. He lost five of his previous six bouts, though that list includes names like Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker and Jack Hermansson.
Three of his losses in that stretch were five-round performances in either a title fight position or in the main event of a card.
Saturday was also a return of sorts for Gastelum. He had been on the sidelines for more than a year, as injuries stopped him from facing Dricus Du Plessis in 2022 and Nassourdine Imavov earlier this year.
A win is a win
Kelvin Gastelum mentioned after the fight that his victory against Curtis didn’t exactly go how he would have preferred. He was hoping his three-round contest would be much more controlled than how it was.
“We didn’t want to be getting into a brawl with him. We wanted a very safe, technical fight and not get into a brawl. But he brought it out of me,” he said. “The main thing was don’t get into a brawl, but it happens.”
Curtis has certainly gained a reputation as a scrappy fighter since joining the UFC in 2021. His previous performance, a second-round finish against Joaquin Buckley late last year, earned Curtis a Performance of the Night bonus.
“The Action Man” notably also pulled off an upset in his second UFC bout, putting away Brendan Allen with punches in 2021.
‘I’ve got a good four, five years in me’
Looking ahead, Kelvin Gastelum hopes that he can make another push towards a title shot. However, there is an end in sight for him. The 21-fight UFC vet hopes that he can stay at the top for about half a decade before riding off into the sunset.
“I’m not going to stick around too much longer. I’ve got a good four, five years in me left fighting at the top. Fighting these top guys. That’s what I plan on doing,”
Gastelum first joined the UFC roster in 2012 through Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter. He passed through the show with an undefeated record and racked up three consecutive finishes at one point. Coming in as an underdog in the final, Gastelum pulled off a split decision victory against Uriah Hall to win the season.
Gastelum put together an undefeated record of 11 wins to start, including five UFC appearances. That streak came to an end when he fought Tyron Woodley in 2015.
Gastelum has remained near the top of the division in recent years. He challenged for an interim belt against Adesanya in 2019 after overcoming vets Michael Bisping and Jacare Souza. While Adesanya prevailed at their UFC 236 title bout, the contest was competitive and earned a Fight of the Night award.
As is the case for most fighters just minutes after their last performance, Kelvin Gastelum wasn’t too focused on when he wanted to compete next. With that being said, he did throw out the idea of participating in International Fight Week this July in Las Vegas.
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