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Kelvin Gastelum unsurprised by Anderson Silva’s USADA failure, but happy for ‘much, much bigger fight’

Kelvin Gastelum is happy Michael Bisping stepped up to fight him at UFC Shanghai.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Kelvin Gastelum lost an opportunity to test himself against Anderson Silva last week when the legendary former middleweight champion failed a USADA drug test ahead of UFC Shanghai. The failure represented Silva’s second run-in with banned substances over the past three years — “The Spider” served a one-year suspension after testing positive for two steroids in 2015 in the pre-USADA era — yet for better or worse, Silva’s latest issues didn’t change the way Gastelum felt about the Brazilian, simply because Silva’s test results didn’t come as much of a surprise.

“It’s not like I dislike Anderson or I like him. I feel indifferent about him,” Gastelum said Wednesday on a UFC Shanghai media conference call. “To me, it wasn’t surprising that he got caught, and so we’ve got to move on with the show. I feel like he definitely tarnished his legacy with this, and it is what it is. The show must go on.”

The show will indeed go on, as Gastelum has been tapped to fight an unexpected replacement opponent, Michael Bisping, on Nov. 25 at UFC Shanghai.

Another former UFC middleweight champion, Bisping will be making a quick turnaround after losing his title to Georges St-Pierre in dramatic fashion on Nov. 4 at UFC 217. And with Bisping currently sitting at No. 2 in the UFC’s official media-generated middleweight rankings — six spots higher than Silva — UFC Shanghai may turn out to be one of the rare cases for Gastelum where a short-notice matchup carries even more upside than the original.

“I feel like this is a much, much bigger fight than the Anderson Silva fight would’ve been,” Gastelum said.

“Mike is obviously the former champion and he’s highly ranked, and his position in the UFC is very high, so this is a great [chance] for my career. But I feel, advantage-wise, the fight is very equal. He’s coming fresh off a camp, so I imagine he’s in good shape and he’s going to be ready. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy fight.

“GSP said it himself,” Gastelum added. “That was the hardest fight he’s ever had.”

Gastelum has already been installed as a heavy favorite to defeat Bisping — some oddsmakers list him as high as a near-3-to-1 favorite — although such an outcome would thrust Gastelum into a curious position within the UFC.

The 26-year-old has always considered the welterweight division to be his ideal weight class, and only switched to middleweight after struggling repeatedly to make the 170-pound limit. Gastelum reiterated his desire to move back down to 170 pounds after losing to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman at UFC on FOX 25. However, a win over a highly ranked middleweight like Bisping may muddy those plans, and Gastelum acknowledged that he could very well be forced to reconsider his welterweight wishes if he emerges victorious from UFC Shanghai.

“I feel like if I win this fight, then I might have tarnished those plans,” Gastelum said. “I might have just permanently put myself in a position where I’ll be fighting for the middleweight title. If I get to fight for the middleweight title, then that’s ideal, but I also feel like if I do the right things, and I’m able to make the 170 (pound limit) safely and healthy, then I can it and I want to fight for that title too.

“I feel like it actually gives me an advantage,” Gastelum added regarding his questionable dual-weight status. “If I want to go back down and challenge Tyron Woodley, then I feel I can. And if I win this fight, it puts me right there in the conversations for the (middleweight) title as well, so I feel it’s a win-win.”

That said, Gastelum isn’t willing to commit to a next step until after he takes care of business against Bisping in China.

“After the fight, that’s when you find out what options you have and what you want to do,” Gastelum said. “So I feel like maybe that question should be asked after the fight.”

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