Kelvin Gastelum is staying ready so he doesn’t have to get ready.
After only competing once in 2020 — a fight that ended with a disappointing result after falling by submission to Jack Hermansson in the first round — the former interim title contender got back on track with a win over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 to kick off the New Year.
Now he’s already anticipating a quick turn around after the UFC came calling with a new offer for Gastelum to compete again in March.
“I was offered to fight March 27, I believe, I don’t know against who,” Gastelum revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting on Thursday. “I told them let’s go. I want to stay active this year. We’ll see what happens.”
The upcoming card on March 27 is UFC 260, which will be headlined by a pair of title fights as heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic defends his belt in a rematch against Francis Ngannou while featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski takes on Brian Ortega.
There are no middleweight fights currently scheduled for the card so Gastelum would obviously be taking on an opponent who would also accept the fight on relatively short notice.
While nothing is set in stone just yet, Gastelum says he’s committed to a busier schedule in 2021, which is why he was willing to accept the opportunity as it was presented to him.
“I really don’t know or have anybody in mind. But I’d be willing to fight any of them,” Gastelum said when looking at potential opponents at middleweight. “You guys know I don’t back down from a challenge. The bigger the challenge, the more excited I get. So that’s why I wanted to throw my name out there when I said I’d be the replacement if anything should happen to either of those fighters, [Robert] Whittaker or [Paulo] Costa.
“A lot of these guys are on the radar. I just want to keep moving up the rankings, get the best fights that I can get and absolutely work, stay active. Last year, I only fought one time so I want to be able to stay active.”
Prior to UFC 258, Gastelum was initially hoping for a higher ranked opponent but when nothing was available, he told the promotion just to find him anybody willing to face him.
The UFC returned with Heinisch and Gastelum obviously accepted.
Now he’s carrying that same mentality into the rest of the year as Gastelum seeks to begin building momentum off his most recent win.
“At the beginning, I was pretty picky as to I wanted to fight a top five opponent, I wanted to fight a higher ranked opponent but a couple months went by and I wasn’t getting a fight,” Gastelum explained. “So I was like give me anybody.
“Give me the last ranked, give me 15th guy, give me the 10th guy, give me the No. 1 guy, I didn’t care by that time. I wanted to fight first ranked or last ranked it didn’t matter. I don’t care who I fight. I just want to stay active.”
Outside of Hermannson who Gastelum previously fought, there’s only one other name ahead of him in the rankings without a fight currently booked and that’s Jared Cannonier.
Gastelum says he would gladly accept that fight but he’s not calling Cannonier out or anybody else for that matter cause he’s just anxious to compete again.
On top of that, the 29-year-old middleweight contender is also back in training just in case one of the high profile fights coming up in the near future needs a replacement.
Right now there are several big fights booked at 185 pounds including Robert Whittaker vs. Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori vs. Darren Till and Kevin Holland vs. Derek Brunson — and Gastelum will keep his eyes on all of those while still waiting on word about an opponent for UFC 260.
“I’m staying ready,” Gastelum said. “Like I said, I was offered a fight March 27, that’s in like four and a half weeks. I wasn’t planning on it but you know what? I want to stay active. So I’m taking this opportunity to stay active.
“If it happens, then let’s do it. I don’t know against who. I don’t know if it’s going to come to fruition but if it does, than this is the perfect opportunity to stay active and I’ll do so. I think the middleweight division is on fire right now more than ever. A lot of these guys could be champion. One is not better than the other in my opinion.”