After an injury forced Kevin Holland out of UFC on ESPN 9, it didn’t take long for Gabriel Green to fill that empty slot.
Green will make his UFC debut on just five days notice when he faces Daniel Rodriguez this Saturday at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The 27-year-old has been so busy getting everything prepared for his bout inside the hallowed octagon that he hasn’t had time to allow the news to sink in.
“I don’t think it’s gonna settle in until after I get that dub,” Green told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “Everything has just been moving very fast.”
The California native enters the night riding an impressive six-fight winning streak—which includes victories for Bellator and Combate Americas—as well as a 100 percent finish rate. In fact, “Gifted” hasn’t seen a decision, win or lose, since his amateur debut in November 2014.
While the UFC debutante has been extremely active throughout his career, he hasn’t competed since capturing the CXF 160-pound catchweight title in August 2018. Green suffered a broken hand in the fight and while the injury needed to be repaired, he also discovered that a lingering shoulder injury from his football days was worse than he thought.
Coincidentally, following his second-round TKO win in his most recent fight, Green already had his next fight lined up for the California regional promotion but couldn’t compete due to his injuries. The opponent? None other than Rodriguez which means there is more history than mystery heading into the biggest fight of his career.
“We’ve checked out some videos,” Green explained. “We saw what he does. I was actually supposed to fight him back in 2018 after I won that belt but I broke my hand in the fight and it turned out my shoulder was a lot more messed up than I thought it was. I had to pull out of that one, but we had already looked at him a while back.
“He’s progressed as a fighter a little bit, but I’m just happy to have the opportunity to fight in the first place. We would’ve taken anybody on at this point. It’s cool that it’s Daniel because we already are a little more familiar with him than anything. It’s almost perfect, but we’re just making sure that I’m sharp instead of worrying about the opponent exactly.”
Rodriguez entered the UFC’s loaded welterweight division much like Green—on less than a week’s notice—and picked up a second-round submission win over Tim Means at UFC Rio Rancho in February. “D-Rod” will have slightly more notice this time around, although he had to deal with an opponent switch less than a week from the fight.
Like his opponent, Green seems to be just fine with getting right after it with no time to overthink.
“There are some kind of perks to it. It does feel kind of nice,” Green said. “I’m someone who works out a lot in general and I think I go into fights almost overtrained sometimes. So the fact that a pandemic was going on, I’m training a little less than I normally do because I don’t have access to a whole bunch of stuff.
“I think, by default, it’s almost impossible for me to be overtrained for this fight, which is a good thing. And it definitely feels good to just go out there, not have to worry about anything mentally. It’s just like, ‘All right, we’re gonna go fight? I love to fight so let’s skip all the other stuff and just get straight to fight week.”
“I’m just happy to be here more than anything. I just want to fight.”
After nearly two years out of action, Green is ready to show the world what he can do. One thing he guarantees—much like most of his career—is that this fight will not go a full 15-minutes on Saturday night.
“Expect fireworks,” Green stated. “I go out there, I do my thing. I’ve only been the distance one time and it was the worst feeling of my life standing there with my hand down ready to see if it would be raised or not. It’s a lot better feeling like your hand’s gonna get raised. After that, it was like, ‘Forget this, I’m gonna get my hand raised every time.’
“I ain’t going to no decision. The judges can take a water break, bathroom break, whatever. It definitely ain’t going the distance. I don’t know if it’s going to be a knockout, or a sub, I just know it’s not going all the way.”