Kelvin Gastelum has his eyes set on the UFC middleweight strap.
The winner of The Ultimate Fighter 17 picked up a split decision victory over veteran middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With that hard-fought win, Gastelum now has a 3-1 record with one no-contest (a first-round TKO of Vitor Belfort that was later overturned when Gastelum tested positive for marijuana) since moving back to the 185-pound division in December 2016.
Gastelum’s only loss during this run came to former UFC champ Chris Weidman last July. Since then, Gastelum picked up a win over ex-champ Michael Bisping and now Souza.
The 26-year-old fighter believes he’s done enough to be the next guy to challenge for the title.
“I definitely feel like a title shot should be next,” Gastelum said at the UFC 224 post-fight press conference. “I don’t think I’d accept any other fight than the title shot. I’m the most active middleweight there has been. All the guys (I’ve beat) are top-10 and former champions, so I feel like I deserve it.”
Currently, Robert Whittaker holds the UFC title at 185 pounds, and he’s set to defend it next month against a man he defeated not too long ago — Yoel Romero. If the rematch between Whittaker and Romero were to get postponed due to any circumstance, Gastelum says he’d be willing to sit on the sidelines and wait.
“I definitely feel I deserve the shot,” Gastelum said. “So I definitely feel like I will sit out until my shot is next.”
Prior to the win over Souza, Gastelum was ranked fifth on the UFC’s official contenders’ list. The Kings MMA product is 15-3 with one no-contest in MMA.