Jack Hermansson has a master plan.
Step one was easy enough. After his four-fight winning streak was snapped by Jared Cannonier in September, “The Joker” returned to the win column on Saturday with a first-round heel hook submission of Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event of UFC Fight Island 2 in Abu Dhabi.
Immediately afterward, Hermansson called for the winner of a July 25 duel between former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and Darren Till, expecting a win over one of those fighters puts him in line for a future title shot.
“That’s the plan, man,” Hermansson said. “The winner between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till, that’s the fight to make. That’s the only thing that makes sense right now, so I’m keeping my eyes on that fight next weekend.”
Entrenched in the top-10 at middleweight, there are no guarantees for Hermansson, or any of the other contenders. But with champion Israel Adesanya reportedly set to face Paulo Costa at UFC 253 in September, the landscape is at least becoming somewhat clearer.
Hermansson has won five of his last six fights, including a unanimous nod over longtime contender Ronaldo Souza and finishes of David Branch, Gerald Meerschaert, and Thales Leits. Add in his impressive submission of Gastelum, and the Swede knows that a championship opportunity is well within reach.
“I’m not sure, but that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Hermansson said. “Coming up from this first-round finish right now, I don’t want to be fighting someone behind me. Looking into that top-5, you have Costa and Adesanya, and then Jared Cannonier should get the shot from the winner of that fight. Then you have the Darren Till and Robert Whittaker fight, you’re going to place me with the winner of that fight.”
Asked for a prediction, Hermansson gives “a small edge” to Whittaker and he thinks it will be a close fight with the former champion prevailing. As for Adesanya and Costa, Hermansson likes the challenger’s chances.
“I believe that Paulo Costa will be champion when I fight for the title,” Hermansson said. “He’s gonna put some pressure on Adesanya. Paulo Costa’s pressure is just insane. He’s throwing so hard with everything he’s got and he can do it for almost all the rounds, it’s just incredible the physique and power that that guy has. I think it’s going to be problematic for Adesanya.
“But in this sport you never know what’s going to happen. Adesanya’s a great fighter, he’s a standup wizard. It’s gonna be an interesting fight.”