Fightless Saturday nights Gregor Gillespie handles just fine.
But it’s those two or three Saturday nights each year when he needs to throw hands -- and kicks -- and such sanctioned aggression gets canceled shortly before show time that really sends the Massapequa resident into a "weird bag of emotions."
Such was the case on March 20, when while making his morning coffee and preparing for a workout to get him loosened up for his return to the UFC octagon later that evening, Gillespie received the news that his fight with Brad Riddell was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols involving the New Zealander.
First, there’s disbelief and disappointment.
"Are you kidding me? Not only did it get canceled, but it got canceled, literally, less than 12 hours before I was supposed to make the walk to the cage," Gillespie said. "You're really disappointed, you feel a little bad for everyone that came with you, and everyone that made a sacrifice in their lives to put their life on hold for a week and come out to help you."
"All of a sudden, all the adrenaline, all the nerves, all of the worry and anxiety that come along with going and fighting on a fight day, it's a nerve-wracking day, that's instantly gone," Gillespie said. "So you're instantly tired."
"The guilt, I would say, it’s like I am kind of relieved that I'm not fighting," Gillespie said. "But on the same token, the absolute high and joy you get from winning that fight, now that opportunity has also been taken away as well. So the reward from feeling that way and pushing through those kinds of feelings is gone as well."
Then, after a week of mountain climbing in the Adirondacks, comes the next training camp for the next fight. Gillespie, the No. 14 ranked lightweight in the UFC, faces No. 12 Diego Ferreira at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on Saturday. Gillespie’s fight, his first since November 2019, is part of the main card on ESPN beginning at 8 p.m. and headlined by Michelle Waterson vs. Marina Rodriguez.
Provided the fight takes place as scheduled on Saturday night at the UFC Apex, it will be 554 days since Gillespie (13-1) last fought and lost by first-round knockout to Kevin Lee. Ferreira (17-3), a jiu-jitsu ace, is coming off a split decision loss to Beneil Dariush last February.
Training under Keith Trimble at Bellmore Kickboxing MMA, the 34-year-old Gillespie shows improved striking skills each time he fights. Known first for his wrestling pedigree – a former NCAA national champion and four-time All-American at Ediboro – Gillespie has more wins by knockout (six) than he does submissions (five) or decisions (two).
"We've trained every aspect of it so wherever the fight goes, I'm prepared," Gillespie said. "It is what it is. It’s an MMA fight."
UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas
Main card, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Marina Rodriguez vs. Michelle Waterson
Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Morono
Neil Magny vs. Geoff Neal
Diego Ferreira vs. Gregor Gillespie
Maurice Greene vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
Angela Hill vs. Amanda Ribas
Prelims, 5 p.m. on ESPN+
Philipe Lins vs. Ben Rothwell
Kyle Daukaus vs. Phil Hawes
Ludovit Klein vs. Mike Trizano
Zarrukh Adashev vs. Ryan Benoit
Tafon Nchukwi vs. Jun Yong Park
Christian Aguilera vs. Carlston Harris