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Gunnar Nelson on struggles to book ranked opponents, claims Jorge Masvidal declined fight

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Gunnar Nelson’s return to action following a knee injury was announced last week, with the Icelandic submission supremo now booked to face Alex Oliveira at UFC 231 in Toronto.

Nelson is content having booked a ranked welterweight after continued struggles to get a top name to sign on the dotted line over the last number of years.

“Gunni” was forced out of another top tier tussle at UFC Liverpool when the previously mentioned knee injury first flared up. Not only was Nelson disappointed with the injury, but he also insisted that it was devastating to withdraw from a clash with one of the division’s top names.

“It was devastating,” Nelson said on the latest episode of Eurobash. “The camp was going really well, everything was looking good and then these things come out of nowhere.

“[The injury] was in training, but nothing happened. It wasn’t like an accident happened, I was just taking someone down and it just tweaked. From then on, it clicked massively on the inside. Every time I’d go beyond 90 degrees it would go.

“Then I saw a doctor. He asked me first, ‘Are you going to continue competing’, and I was like, ‘Yeah, of course’. Then he said we’d have to do the surgery on Monday. After that, he said if you don’t get the surgery, the more you leave it, it could ruin the cartilage in my knee and that would be bad…especially for someone who does this for a living.”

Nelson found out quickly that he would have the same trouble finding a willing, ranked opponent when he was cleared to fight. He revealed that Jorge Masvidal was one of the fighters that turned down the opportunity to take him on him in his return bout.

“They said Masvidal first,” he explained. “They did throw a few names out there, but I didn’t see a lot, but obviously I just wanted to get a ranked opponent if possible. Masvidal said ‘no’, I think he’s going down to lightweight or something.

“[Masvidal] said ‘no’ anyway, we did expect that, but I was very happy that I got Alex Oliveira because I think he’s ranked one above me and he’s a great fighter. I was expecting that it might be someone that’s unranked. I would have taken it to be honest because at this stage I just want to get in there. It didn’t really matter who it was for me. I just told my team, ‘Tell me who I’m fighting and I’ll be ready’.”

Nelson now leaves his bookings in his managers’ hands and only wants to know about his opponents when a deal has been struck:

“That’s part of it. All the time it’s just this name or this name and I’m just like, ‘Yeah…yeah…yeah’. And then I don’t get him because he’s injured or whatever. It takes you back and forth like, ‘Who the hell am I fighting?’ and then maybe someone gets injured and you have to get someone else. At this stage it’s just like, ‘Tell me who it is and I’ll be there.’”

Although he understands the reasons behind it, Nelson believes fighters’ approaches to competing has changed considerably over the last number of years.

“It’s definitely changed,” said Nelson. “People are choosing and picking a lot more than they were. There are a lot more people thinking about what they are gaining from it and how much of a risk it is compared to those gains. I understand that, and it’s probably a lot of the management that take care of that stuff. It is what it is…I’ll stick to my ways.”

Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Gunnar Nelson interview begins at 12:30.


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