Kelvin Gastelum talks Jared Cannonier matchup ahead of UFC Vegas 34

Kelvin Gastelum joins Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole and says he'll look to exploit the holes in Jared Cannonier's wrestling game while trying to avoid his immense power when the two meet in the Octagon Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 34.

Video transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, gang, it's Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports, a big show at Apex on Saturday, USC Vegas 34, and the main event, a really fun middle weight bout, Jared Cannonier taking on my next guest, Mr. Kelvin Gastelum. Kelvin, I wanted to tell you that I know you're taking this one seriously, because I saw your training partners that you're pointing out, and I saw you've got the Sly Stalone. Rocky was in your area. How did that go?

KELVIN GASTELUM: That was good. That was good. You know, Paul is a good trainer, man.

KEVIN IOLE: So what is it you're getting-- so you know, if you go to Kelvin's Instagram, you can see, he's got Cannonier Gastelum t-shirts made. He had El Chapo wearing one of his shirts.


KEVIN IOLE: He's got a lot of them there. What, are you getting into a marketing business now?

KELVIN GASTELUM: No, but I thought it'd be funny to hopefully catch some attention and catch some guys, catch some people's attention and then maybe get some people to buy the shirt.

KEVIN IOLE: I like it, so good job.


KEVIN IOLE: You know, Jared is a big dude, you know. And I talked to him yesterday, former heavyweight, he's come down. And you're a welterweight moved up right. So you're kind of a the middleweight. Do you do you believe physicality is going to be a factor in this fight, size and strength is going to be an issue?

KELVIN GASTELUM: I think it could be. I think it could be. He's a very big, strong guy. And I think if his goal is to actually use it, then maybe it can be a factor. But if his goal is to go out there, go out there and fight, then that's a different aspect as well.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, given that you've fought in multiple divisions, what do you see as the difference? Like, when you go up a weight class, what is the difference between the type of athlete you face when you're at 170, compared to when you're at 185?

KELVIN GASTELUM: Yeah, it's definitely a different type of body, a different type of athlete. These guys at middleweights, they're not only explosive, just like the welterweights, but they hit really hard.

And you know, it's tough to deal with sometimes. You know, thankfully God made me with an iron chin. And I can take some of it. But I don't recommend it. But it'll be interesting. That's the beauty of the fight game. We're going to see on Saturday whether I can take it or whether he can take my power, because I bring a certain level of power to the table as well.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, the one thing that I was wondering is who you pissed off among the UFC matchmakers, because I think of all the active fighters in the UFC, you might have had the hardest run of anybody, from your beginning.

Like, I think of all the either champions or ex-champions you've fought, or future champions, and if you add strike force in there, I think about half of your opponents have been world champions at one point or another. I mean, so not that anybody in the UFC has an easy run, but you have had a more difficult, I would say, a more difficult run than most. Wouldn't you agree?

KELVIN GASTELUM: I mean, it's not something that I look back at too much. But I've always asked for it. You know, ever since my very first fight in the UFC after winning the Ultimate Fighter, I was asking for a guy like-- who was it? It was Paulo Thiago at the time. He was a big contender at the time. And I was just winning the Ultimate Fighter. And I was asking for the biggest name possible. So I've always asked for it.

KELVIN GASTELUM: Do you think, Kelvin, that's why MMA in general and the UFC specifically has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years, because people know when they tune in that you guys are calling out the best fighters, and you're facing the best fighters, and you're going to see really competitive fights each time out?

KELVIN GASTELUM: I'm sorry, can you repeat that, Kevin?

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, I'm saying, do you think that part of the reason for the growth and popularity of MMA, and the UFC in specific, is the fact that you guys fight so many tough fights, and you're always coming out better fighters, guys ranked ahead of you, and people know if they're going to tune into an MMA fight, don't they have a sense that, hey, I'm going to see two real guys fighting?

KELVIN GASTELUM: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think with so much going on online, with so much-- I think there's a lot of fake stuff online, right, a lot of Photoshopping, a lot of fake people. In general, there's a lot of fakeness going around the world today. People are looking for something genuine.

And I think MMA is one of those few things that is very genuine and very true to the art. And I think that's why it's attractive to many people. People are looking for something very real. And you can't lie in there. You can't deceit in there. You know, if you prepare for a fight, if you train well for a fight, you're going to go in there, you're going to get smashed.

KEVIN IOLE: You train with a really good team. You have one of the best coaches in the world. And you've been fighting the best fighters in the world. And you've been fighting well. But you're coming up short, right? And so how frustrated are, you as you sit there? And you know, you had a fight the other night against Robert Whittaker, who I have in my top 10 pound for pound.

And that's how good I think Robert Whittaker is. And you were in an amazing fight with him, gave him everything you could handle. You know, it's got to be frustrating, Kelvin, I would imagine, to fight this elite opponent, perform so well, and then you come out on the short end a number of times in a row. How do you mentally handle that?

KELVIN GASTELUM: Yeah, I mean, it's just-- I think there's always something to improve. After every shortcoming, then we look for something to improve on. Obviously, we did something wrong. So there's always room for improvement. And so that never goes away. That's always the motivation. I still know that I'm one of the best.

But there's things that I need to improve on. And sometimes maybe my team might not have what I need. Maybe I need to go and train somewhere and learn for a few weeks, bring it back, and just apply it to my knowledge and just try and learn and grow from different places and different people, just in case you get stagnant.

KEVIN IOLE: When you break down your fight with Whitaker, I mean, is there anything that you look at? Because like, to me, it was like a really even back and forth fight. I mean, is there any area look at you said, I can be better in that fight? Was there something that you touched on that you didn't do that you intended to do?

KELVIN GASTELUM: The only thing that-- one of the main things for that fight, I think, was just the lack of time for preparation. We had about 3 and 1/2 weeks to prepare for that fight. And I feel like with more time to prepare with full training camp, I think it would have been a way different fight. I think, you know, like I said, the way that we structure my camps now, that would have been a completely different fight.

KEVIN IOLE: As I'm looking at you, you look like you put on a little bit of muscle up in this area. Did you do that? And is that something that you intentionally did to try to kind of get stronger?

KELVIN GASTELUM: You know what? That was kind of unintentional. I was looking at the scale, and I was like, man, I'm a little bit heavier than what I'm used to. But it was because I put on a little bit of muscle. And my trainers noticed that. My training partners noticed that. And so, yeah, it was just unintentional. But it's a good thing. I'm fighting a big, strong guy.

KEVIN IOLE: No doubt. Do you notice any advantages in your sparring that you've had from having that little extra muscle and strength?

KELVIN GASTELUM: Well, like I said, this has been one of the best training camps that I've had ever. So my training camp, my fight, my sparring the last two camps-- the last few weeks, sorry-- has been just domination, to be honest. I've been doing really good in training and taking people down, knocking people down. I've been doing really good.

KEVIN IOLE: Obviously in your win over Ian Heinish on February 13, that was a fight where your wrestling was really on display. You know, you took him down and did a great job in that fight. I don't remember maybe trying as many shots against Whittaker. Is there any advantage to you trying to get the fight with Cannonier to the ground?

KELVIN GASTELUM: Yeah, I think so. I think one of the holes that he has probably his wrestling game, so definitely exploit that if I can.

KEVIN IOLE: Awesome. When you look at it, what is the key for you to win that fight? Like, is there anything you can point to that says, hey, if you're watching this fight and you see Kelvin Gastelum doing this, you're going to know he's winning?

KELVIN GASTELUM: If I go out there and I look calm, relaxed, and I go out there and I'm throwing my jab, and I'm ending combinations with a jab, and I look confident and I look relaxed, then you know that I'm feeling good inside of that fight. But if you see me eyes wide, kind of panicking, then that's not a good sign.

KEVIN IOLE: But you've been handing it to badasses. I can't imagine I'm going to see you having eyes wide in the cage. But let's end it with this. Against a guy like Jared, who you know is a big, strong guy and everything, does that make the sense of urgency to not make a mistake that much greater, knowing that he has the ability to put the lights out on anybody?

KELVIN GASTELUM: Yeah, absolutely. We know the power that he possesses. We know the capabilities of it. And so we're very conscious of it as well. And so I've built some strategies. I have answers for what he may bring. And definitely his power is something that we're going to respect with this fight.

KEVIN IOLE: Awesome. Saturday at APEX on ESPN, Kelvin Gastelum against Jared Cannonier. Kelvin, I appreciate you as always, brother. Good luck.

KELVIN GASTELUM: Appreciate your time, Kevin. Thank you.

KEVIN IOLE: See you, bro.