Chris Curtis believes he got a raw deal at UFC 287, and he’s pleading his case the regulators of his fight against Kelvin Gastelum.
Curtis lost a unanimous decision to Gastelum via scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. But he believes an alleged headbutt cost him a crucial round in the second when he was knocked down and forced to battle back. Now, he is appealing the Florida State Athletic Commission to overturn the result to a no-contest.
“Commissions are hard, but everyone says Florida, they’re pretty good with working with things and hearing cases and whatnot,” Curtis said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “So hopefully, I’m in Florida’s good graces and they’ll hear it.”
Referee Marc Goddard did not stop the action during the second round and did not call any fouls. Curtis said the referee acknowledged to him a clash of heads but didn’t believe it was intentional, which would have required the action to be stopped and an assessment of his ability to continue.
Curtis believes the fight should have been paused regardless.
“Like if I were to hit him in the nuts right there, even if it was an accident, what would happen, they would stop the action,” he said. “There’d be a break. You get your recovery time. Well, I didn’t get that, but not his fault. [Goddard] said he was circling, he’s in a bad position. He didn’t see it. People at home watching him didn’t see it. Even a lot of the broadcasters didn’t see it. ... It’s just bad position. But, like, I was knocked out on technically what would be a foul?”
Curtis doesn’t dispute that Gastelum captured the first round of the fight, and he believes he won the third and final round. The second round was the closest, according to post-fight statistics (Gastelum edged Curtis in significant strikes, 27 to 26), but Curtis said when you consider that many of those occurred immediately after the clash of heads, the headbutt becomes all the more critical.
“No one who’s watched that round back and said I wasn’t leading before up until that moment,” he said. “And then I woke up and fought through and led afterward. But in that moment I got dropped, which looks bad to the judges.
“I’m controlling everything else, but that 30 seconds resulting from my headbutt cost me that fight.”
For fight fans accusing Curtis of sour grapes, he said Gastelum’s comeback story has obscured the reality of what happened in the octagon – if not with the judges, then with the people who show up on his Twitter arguing he lost.
“It’s the storyline of Kelvin Gastelum that people are invested in,” he said. “I get, he’s been through a lot. I get it, he’s done all this. I get you guys love him. We’re happy to see him back, but I beat him, and now I gotta go through all this bulls***. Like, [Gastelum is saying], ‘He is risen, I am back.’ But bro, I will bury you if I see you again.”
In addition to the result being overturned, Curtis hopes to get a rematch with the one-time interim middleweight title challenger. So far, he hasn’t broached the topic with the UFC since the fight just happened. But he hopes the promotion and Gastelum will be receptive.
Not only was a financial impact felt, Curtis said, but his career took a hit by losing to a higher-ranked opponent. While the two did win “Fight of the Night,” there was a special sting for “The Action Man” in not being able to claim victory.
“As much as fighting is about me being able to pay for myself and my family, that’s not the reason why I did this,” Curtis said. “I’ve always said it’s about seeing how far I can go, seeing where I am. I have heard the story this entire camp, Kelvin is back, blah, blah blah. On fight week, everyone’s talking about like, ‘Oh, he’s saying the right things. He’s in a good place, blah, blah, blah.’ The bullshit continues. And after the fight I got to hear, ‘Oh, that was prime Kelvin. That was Kelvin as good as he was when he fought [Israel Adesanya].’ I’m like, cool. But I’m better than you that night.
“He felt great, but I was better, and I’m never gonna get the recognition for that because of a headbutt, and I’m like, fine. I’ll accept that. People are gonna feel a certain way – run it back and I’ll beat you again.
“You got gifted that one, I’ll do it again. Either make it a no-contest and say screw it, or be a man and do it again. ... He knows, and you know, be a man do it again.”