When Kelvin Gastelum called out Anderson Silva after Gastelum defeated Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC Fight Night 106, he never would have imagined the fight would be signed just a few days later.
“I thought it was going to be a problem,” Gastelum said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I thought he wasn’t going to sign, next thing I know he’s posting this video of him signing it and waving his head like a weirdo.”
Even with the fight signed, sealed, and delivered for UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro on June 3, Gastelum still can’t quite believe he’s actually going to be fighting the man many consider the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in MMA history, much less on the legend’s home turf.
“This is still something that I have to let sink in,” Gastelum said. “Over the next few months I’m going to have to really convince myself it’s happening. It’s kind of a big deal. I thought the Vitor Belfort fight was bigger. This was a whole ‘nother level. I’m fighting the greatest of all-time, it’s like fighting Mike Tyson.”
The TUF 17 winner has taken dubbed a “Legend Killer” since he began his latest run at 185. He’s earned stoppage wins over Tim Kennedy, who then retired, and former UFC one-night tournament winner Vitor Belfort in his first two fights.
Going up against Silva, right after finishing Belfort in Brazil, seems to seal the deal on the “Legend Killer” nickname. But while Gastelum has enough respect for those who came before him that he’s not going to go all out in embracing the role, he also understands he’s gotten more attention since taking this career path than ever before.
“I guess I’m alright with it, whatever gets people to talk, but these are just the guys who are ranked above me, so it gets people talking,” Gastelum said. “I fight a big name, people are interested in seeing what happens, see if Anderson can take on a young up-and-coming guy like myself. We’ll see. I saw his last fight against Derek Brunson, he has very little holes. Usually I can spot holes in people’s games but Anderson is a different animal. it’s going to be a difficult task for sure.”
Silva’s fight with Derek Brunson, at UFC 208, went to Silva in a highly contested decision, after a fight which was not exactly 15 minutes of dynamic action.
Gastelum, for his part, agreed with the decision in Silva’s favor.
“Not a lot happened but the stuff that did happen he countered well, defended well, he had good offense, good defense, displayed his game,” Gastelum said. “It was very nice to watch, he’s a very complete fighter, more than any other fighter I’ve faced. It’s going to be a difficult task. ... I was in agreeance with the [decision]. I think Derek Brunson showed him a little too much respect inside the Octagon. Absolutely he deserves that respect, but once the cage door closes man, it’s gotta be your world.”
But that’s still more than two months away. For now, Gastelum is still wrapping his brain around the idea that he’s fighting Silva in the first place.
“I didn’t think he was actually going to take the fight,” Gastelum said. “But I’m just very thankful for the opportunity to be able to fight him. He’s the greatest of all-time, and he deserves all the respect in the world, but once that cage door closes, I expect the same result I did with Vitor as well.”