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Kelvin Gastelum already planning return to welterweight after UFC 188

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

MEXICO CITY -- Kelvin Gastelum looked and sounded relaxed and happy as the days wind down toward Saturday's UFC 188.

After all, he's back at middleweight, the weight class at which he won The Ultimate Fighter 17, so he doesn't have to sweat big weight cuts like he did at 170 pounds.

"It's been great, a really, really smooth camp, one of the smoothest camps I've ever had," Gastelum said at Wednesday's UFC 188 open workouts. "Very smooth, not worried as much about my weight. This is the least of my worries."

Given that, it might be surprising to find out that Gastelum considers his return to 185, where he meets veteran Nate Marquardt on Saturday night, to be a one-and-one deal.

The way Gastelum sees it, he's meant to be a 170 pounder, despite issues he's had in making the weight, including a horrific weight cut and a nine-pound miss before his UFC 183 loss to Tyron Woodley, the first defeat of his career.

"I think the difference between middleweight and welterweight is, I can be a mediocre middleweight or I can be the welterweight champion," Gastelum said. "I want to be the welterweight champion. I plan on going back, and I plan on getting back in the boss' good graces after this Saturday."

While he's on the larger side for a welterweight, he's also a smallish middleweight. While Gastelum feels he has the skill set to survive against middleweight's elite killers, he thinks the size difference is just too big a gap to overcome.

"I don't think I can beat [Chris] Weidman, [Luke] Rockhold, Jacare [Souza]," he said. "It's a size thing. I think my skill level matches up pretty well with them, but, I have a height disadvantage, weight disadvantage, strength disadvantage. These guys are huge, they're strong, but my skill set, I believe I can compete with the best in the world."