There’s a pretty standard script for announcing and selling big UFC fights these days.
Several fighters take their seats on a dais, each with a microphone in front of them. They’re asked questions about their newly announced opponent and, eventually, the trash talk begins. Some of it is playful, some of it personal and some downright crass.
When the UFC brought several of its top fighters to Dallas in early May for such a news conference, the event mostly followed suit. But when Kelvin Gastelum and Chris Weidman took their turns speaking, the trash talk never came.
“I know a lot of guys, they like to use that emotion, gets them fired up, gets them motivated, but I’ve never been that way,” Gastelum said.
There’s little, if any, animosity between the two men ahead of their main event on July 22 at Nassau Coliseum. When Weidman entered UFC Long Island media day on Wednesday, the pair didn’t yell or posture, instead embracing and exchanging pleasantries between interviews. Weidman even posted a video of Gastelum on his Instagram story including the caption, “With the enemy haha” and a laughing emoji.
“He’s a real nice kid, it felt weird even fighting him because every time I see him, we get along really good,” Weidman said.
Gastelum said he’s getting out of his shell a bit more now that he’s in the spotlight, but he doesn’t need to trash an opponent to get up for a bout.
“I’m not doing this because I have anger issues. I’m doing this because it’s a sport that I like and I see it as a sport,” Gastelum said. “My goal is to win, not hurt somebody.”
Weidman has gotten into it with some of his previous opponents for various reasons, mostly ahead of much-anticipated title fights with Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold.
But ahead of the fight with Gastelum, Weidman has a new perspective on trash talking in MMA.
“It’s almost like it’s unique these days for you to actually have respect,” Weidman said. “It used to be like, everybody wanted people to talk (expletive) and get people going and it was very rare. Now everybody is trying to force it to sell the fights.”
Weidman, a former middleweight champion, said the matchup with Gastelum “came out of nowhere” for him. Gastelum had fought at welterweight for much of his career, only recently coming up to middleweight due to weight-cutting issues.
“He was a welterweight, I never thought I would be fighting him,” Weidman said. “He’s really a small 185er, I feel like, but he he’s doing good at the weight. It’s kind of weird that we’re fighting, but at the end of the day when we get in there, it’s a fight.”