Former UFC Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker views fierce competition as the main hurdle in Kelvin Gastelum‘s career.
#1 middleweight contender Robert Whittaker will go against Israel Adesanya in a rematch at UFC 271 this February to reclaim the championship. He knows firsthand what it is like to lose to “The Last Stylebender” and refuses to let it be his downfall.
Since the UFC 243 loss, the New Zealand-born fighter has been on a winning streak, including a win against Gastelum and the middleweight division’s #3-ranked fighter Jared Cannonier, who bested Gastelum by unanimous decision at UFC Vegas 43.
In contrast, Kelvin Gastelum has experienced a setback after his loss to Israel Adesanya back in 2019 and questions his place in his current weight class.
“I don’t see him going back down to 170. He’s a thick dude. He hits like a ton of bricks as well. I don’t see him going down to 170. He’s just in that awkward spot that I think a lot of guys get in, where they find it hard, they’re coming up against the highest tier up at the top of the ladder, but they crush a lot of the dudes coming up onto the ladder. So he’s kind of getting caught in that gatekeeping sort of spot,” Whittaker said about Gastelum in a recent interview with MMA Junkie.
The middleweight division certainly is home to some incredible UFC talent such as Sean Strickland, Jack Hermansson, Derek Brunson, and, of course, Israel Adesanya. Every fighter is hungry to be the champion. And with only one win out of his last six fights, Kelvin Gastelum may have a long journey ahead.
But despite the defeats, “The Reaper” had nothing other than positive things to say about the #10 middleweight:
“I’ve got a lot of love for that guy, I really like him. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as well. He’s had a bit of a rough skid lately, just because he’s been fighting hard guys. He’s been fighting top-tier opponents. It is not easy… fighting, playing, and trying to advance up in the top five. It is hard. Everyone up there is the best in the world. Everyone up there could be the next champ. We’ve seen that with him. He’s been fighting the highest-quality opponents,” Whittaker told MMA Junkie.
Struggling to make weight caused Gastelum’s move up to the middleweight division in 2016. But following his Ultimate Fighter 17 win in 2013, Kelvin Gastelum sped through the welterweight rankings. Despite fewer losses at 170 and talks of hiring a dietician to help maintain his weight, we may see Gastelum in a welterweight bout in 2022.
With seven knockouts under his name, the veteran fighter possesses the potential to move back up in the rankings just like other fighters have done in the past, Whittaker believes.
“He’s my age, I think, so he’s got years to evolve and change his game, and to develop new skillsets. I see him developing himself and coming back with better versions of himself. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Kelvin Gastelum,” Whittaker continued.
What do you think is next for Kelvin Gastelum?