On April 13, 2018, UFC 236 featured two interim title fights headlining the card and the delivered. The co-main event saw Israel Adesanya narrowly beat Kelvin Gastelum while in the main event Dustin Poirier edged out Max Holloway for the lightweight strap.
Now, one year later, Gastelum says the loss to Adesanya still stings. But, he’s happy and proud of what he did inside the Octagon.
“I’m very proud of the effort that I put in that fight and what we did in that fight despite the circumstances, and I’m very proud of that fight because I got to do a lot of things that I haven’t been able to do in a lot of other fights,” Gastelum told MMA Junkie. “I’m very proud of it. At the same time though, this is not why I got into the sport, to say and look back, ‘I almost did it. I was this close.’ No, man. I’m not going to be one of those people.
“I’m not really worried about it right now, but when people ask me, and they’re like, ‘You were this close,’ it sucks. It burns in my soul. It burns in my heart to know I was that close, and I just won’t let it happen again.”
Since the loss to Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum fought and lost to Darren Till at UFC 244. For the TUF winner, he admits he probably shouldn’t have accepted that scrap.
“I feel like after the Israel fight, I was eager to get back and prove something because I lost, but it didn’t work out in my favor,” Gastelum said. “I lost the Darren Till fight, and I feel like after the Darren Till fight, I realized, ‘Man, maybe I should have taken some more time to kind of heal from that beating I took last April.’ After that fight, I should have taken more time off.
“I was really eager. I had done more damage to my body than I probably realized. I wasn’t there mentally. I wasn’t there physically or emotionally in the Darren Till fight. I don’t even feel like I lost to him, just because of the way that I felt. I didn’t feel like really being there, to be honest.”
In the end, Kelvin Gastelum is still confident in himself and knows he will be a UFC champion.
“I’m glad I’m taking this time to heal my body, heal my mind, heal everything, you know, and just get ready to make another run once again,” Gastelum said. “I’m still young. Man, I’m 28-years-old. I’m not even 30. I haven’t even hit my prime yet.
“I still believe in myself. I still believe I’m going to be champion.”