LOS ANGELES — It’s one of MMA’s more enduring mysteries: Why does Kelvin Gastelum insist he wants to go back to welterweight some day?
For one thing, Gastelum has a history of issues making it down to 170 pounds. For another, he’s been quite successful at 185 — so much so that a victory over Ronaldo Souza in his next bout at UFC 224 could put him in line for a title shot.
And yet Gastelum still can’t resist the thought.
“I keep winning and eventually I’m going to fight for the title at middleweight, which is crazy,” Gastelum told reporters Wednesday. “But yeah, in the back of my head, way in the back, I still have welterweight in mind.”
Finally, though, Gastelum seems to have pinpointed why he has thoughts of going back to welterweight: His fight against Tyron Woodley which got away.
Gastelum lost a tightly contested split decision to Woodley at UFC 183, one which many thought Gastelum won. The narrow win over Gastelum catapulted Woodley to a title shot at then-welterweight champ Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. Woodley won that one via first-round KO and hasn’t looked back since.
“That fight kind of has like a splinter in me, you know? A splinter in my heart,” Gastelum said. “I kind of want to get that fight back, make the weight, make it right, you know? And a lot of people including myself think I won that fight.”
Woodley earned praise after the victory when he vowed to refund the percentage of Gastelum’s purse he was given by the Nevada Athletic Commission after Gastelum missed weight for their bout. Gastelum on Wednesday confirmed that Woodley sent a check to his gym, enough though he at first tried to dissuade Woodley from doing so.
“He contacted me and said ‘hey, where can I send you this check?” Gastelum said. “And I told him, ‘man please, don’t send the check, I don’t want it, I don’t deserve it.’ I felt bad. “But then he looked up the gym I trained at and sent it there. And then I got the check and said ‘alright,’” What am I going to do, rip it up? I don’t know. Should I have? I don’t know.”
That’s why you won’t hear Gastelum badmouth Woodley in any way. He respects Woodley as a person. On a competitive level, however, it’s just a fight he’d like to have back.
“[It is] 100 percent competitive,” Gastelum said. “The only reason that it’s personal to me is that I messed up and I didn’t make the weight and I just have the splinter in me. It’s personal to me. I’m criticizing myself in this way.”
In the meantime, things continue to go well at 185 for Gastelum, so the thoughts about 170 will remain in the back of his head for the time being.
“I’m very happy, my weight is good right now, and I’m eating full meals, you know? I’m not depriving myself completely, I don’t feel like I’m suffering through the days in a bad mood. … I know that I can do [welterweight]. I know if I can do it right, I can do it. But I’m just happy where I am right now. I’m doing well so I’m happy with what’s going on right now.”