Ready or not, Darren Till is jumping directly in the deep end of the middleweight division.
The matchup seemed somewhat curious after UFC president Dana White initially shot down the idea, which came after he candidly stated that the promotion may have pushed Till into the spotlight before he was really ready to shine.
“We might have pushed him a little too soon,” White said back in June. “It happens sometimes when a guy gets that much steam behind him and pump the brakes a little here.”
Till is currently sitting on two straight losses including a title fight against Tyron Woodley and the suffering a brutal knockout courtesy of Jorge Masvidal in his last outing. Despite those setbacks and White’s proclamation that Till may have been pushed before he was ready to jump, the UFC is still putting him up against a top three ranked middleweight in his debut in the division.
“That’s the fight he wants,” White said when asked about the matchmaking decision for Till on Tuesday night following the season finale of his Contender Series.
According to White, UFC officials spoke to Till about the fight before making it official and the 26-year old British slugger had no reservations about facing someone like Gastelum after two straight losses.
“We did [talk to him about it], he said ‘that’s the fight I want’. We went to him and said ‘are you sure this is the fight you want?’,” White explained. “He’s moving up, are you sure Gastelum is the fight [you want]?
“He says that’s the fight I want. Love it.”
It’s obviously a risk and reward situation for Till, who has never backed down from a challenge since joining the UFC roster.
A win would immediately make Till a contender at 185 pounds after suffering through brutal weight cuts for his entire career while competing as a welterweight. The flipside would be a third straight defeat as one of the most promising prospects to come out of England in several years would suffer another major setback in his relatively young career.
Either way, the UFC is on board for the matchup as Till looks to get back on track when he faces Gastelum at UFC 244 in New York.