Kelvin Gastelum made a roundabout return to middleweight, yet it’s been a fortuitous event.
Having missed weight for his UFC 205 welterweight fight with Donald Cerrone in November, Gastelum was rebooked as a middleweight against Tim Kennedy at UFC 206 the following month. He not only made his reluctant return to 185 pounds, but he scored a third-round TKO over Kennedy and called out Vitor Belfort afterwards.
At UFC Fight Night 106 in Fortaleza, Gastelum got his wish. He fought Belfort in front of a partisan crowd hoping to see him lose. Instead, he scored a first round TKO victory over the Brazilian legend, and tossed yet another name out there as a potential next opponent.
This time, just moments after he took out Belfort, Gastelum said he wouldn’t mind fighting Anderson Silva in Rio de Janeiro in June. Many had wondered if he would declare himself ready for a return to welterweight.
He clarified his request in the post-fight press conference.
“I said I wanted to get an interesting fight at middleweight, and that if I could get an interesting fight at middleweight then I’d say,” he said. “And Anderson’s definitely one of those guys that would interest me to fight.”
Asked why Silva specifically, Gastelum said there were numerous reasons.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “He’s a big name, he’s another legend, and he’s ranked above me, and I want to keep moving up the rankings. And I want the fight that will eventually lead me to a title shot.”
Before he defeated Kennedy in December, the 25-year old Gastelum last competed at middleweight at UFC 188 in Mexico City against Nate Marquardt. He won that won via TKO. He also came up as a middleweight through The Ultimate Fighter franchise, having beat Uriah Hall (split decision) at the TUF 17 Finale to win that particular season.
Gastelum still fancies a return to welterweight at some point. He said he if couldn’t get Silva, he would like to receive penultimate fight to a title shot.
“It would have to be against a No. 1 contender,” he said of a potential return. “I believe that I’m one of the best welterweights, and if I go back down it would have to be for a No. 1 contender fight.”
He reiterated that he thinks his best chance at winning a title would occur at 170 pounds, where champion Tyron Woodley is in need of a dance partner.
When asked about the current title picture at 185 pounds, with champion Michael Bisping getting set to face Georges St-Pierre — who is making his return after over three years away — Gastelum said it gave him pause, because the meritocracy is not long what it was.
“A little bit, because what’s the point of having rankings if we’re not going to follow the rankings, or we’re not going to the No. 1 contenders, you know?” he said. “It just doesn’t make any sense. Now everybody wants those big money fights, and it just doesn’t make any sense to have any rankings if we’re going to keep doing that stuff.”