Few people outside of his inner circle expected Kelvin Gastelum to win the Ultimate Fighter 17. In addition to being inexperienced and undersized, the 21-year old Gastelum took on the show’s toughest contestants en route to an eventual showdown with favorite Uriah Hall. Of course, as fans know, Gastelum overcame the odds once again as an underdog and brought home the Season 17 trophy.
Gastelum will take to the Octagon for the second time in his career when he meets Brian Melancon in a matter of hours at UFC Fight Night 27. Though expectations will be higher for the undefeated grappler this time around, Gastelum is actually embracing the situation.
“I feel a little bit of pressure,” acknowledged Gastelum in an interview with Bleacher Report. “Coming off the show and winning the show, people have expectations for me to do good, but it doesn’t make a difference to me. I put that same pressure every single fight. I expect nothing but to win. I came into my last fight as the underdog, but this time I am the favorite and people are expecting me to win. There is pressure, but it is a good pressure. It keeps me focused and on track.”
The path Gastelum expects to take in his career ends in divisional gold. However, he’s making sure to keep his eyes locked on each step in front of him instead of focusing only on the destination.
“My goal is to one day for fight for a title, but I’m going to take it one fight at a time. I’m going to be a company man and do what the UFC asks me to do. I’m young and I still have a long future ahead of me. (TUF) was a milestone I wanted to accomplish—and it was good—but it was just one accomplishment in my career and I want to do this for a long time,” he explained.
Given his success thus far, Gastelum could very well end up competing for a belt at some point in the future. He is 6-0 including five finishes and will be competing at 170 pounds from here on out rather than middleweight based on the division being more naturally suited for his physical frame.