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UFC 244: How Gregor Gillespie stays calm amid the chaos of fighting

Gregor Gillespie reacts after defeating Yancy Medeiros during

Gregor Gillespie reacts after defeating Yancy Medeiros during their lightweight fight during UFC Brooklyn at Barclays Center on Jan. 19, 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Sarah Stier

For procrastinators, there’s always tomorrow.

For fighters, there’s a scheduled date, time and place to be to perform the requirements of the job description.

For fighters such as Massapequa’s Gregor Gillespie who consider themselves “master procrastinators,” eventually they run out of tomorrows and it’s fight time.

“I don’t even think about it until the day of,” Gillespie said of his pivotal lightweight bout against Kevin Lee on Saturday at UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden. “And I really push off those feelings of performance anxiety. I know there's nothing I can do to win the fight right now. I did my work. Saturday night will come around and I’ll worry about it two hours before the fight. I let myself feel those feelings when the time is appropriate.”

Those feelings include the mounting pressure of knowing you’re about to fight someone. No matter how much training has been done, an MMA fight includes a strong element of chance … and physicality.

“When I catch myself at the hotel start thinking about how the fight’s going to go, just stop, I can't win the fight right now. I'll worry about it tomorrow,” Gillespie said. “The next day, it's the same thing. I'll just worry about it tomorrow. I'm not going to do this right now. I'll worry about it tomorrow. And then, I’ll tell you, you're in the locker room and all of a sudden, they're saying, 'Gillespie, you're walking in five.' ”

Then there’s the notion of thousands of people watching the match play out live in the arena, and the hundreds of thousands doing the same via broadcast. Hello, performance anxiety.

“Those feelings can paralyze some people and they can kind of awake the beast in other people,” Gillespie said. “I’ve always said that I’m a gamer. My college coach has always said that I'm a gamer. I perform better than I practice. If you're going to be one way or the other, that's the better way to be.”

Hard to argue there as No. 11 Gillespie, who trains at Bellmore Kickboxing MMA under Keith Trimble, remains undefeated in his career. Gillespie (13-0, 6-0 UFC) has finished his last five opponents, most recently a second-round TKO of Yancy Medeiros at UFC Brooklyn in January.

That was more than 280 days ago. Not exactly “recent.” Such a block of time away from a fight led Gillespie to do something he said he’d never do: publicly call out a fighter. He did so at the end of August when in a video on his social media accounts, he respectfully asked to face Anthony Pettis, a former UFC lightweight champion. Two weeks later, he suggested to Paul Felder via an image and some typed words that the two share the octagon together on Nov. 2 at MSG.

Gillespie said he felt uncomfortable doing both of those. Neither fight materialized, but here’s what did: the recirculation of Gillespie’s name amid the MMA world and a fight against the 10th-ranked Lee.

“The callout did what it was supposed to do,” Gillespie said. “It let people know I’m trying to fight.”

Lee (17-5, 10-5), loser of two straight including a bout at welterweight, is very comfortable calling out fighters and talking big about his opponents.

“If he expects me to bite on that bait, though, he’s mistaken. I’m not doing that this week,” Gillespie said. “I get it, you’re talking. Go ahead, keep going. We’ll fight Saturday night. I signed the contract, you’re not scaring me out of it at this point.”

UFC 244 main card, 10 p.m. Eastern on ESPN+ PPV

Welterweight: Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal

Middleweight: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Darren Till

Welterweight: Stephen Thompson vs. Vicente Luque

Heavyweight: Derrick Lewis vs. Blagoy Ivanov

Lightweight: Gregor Gillespie vs. Kevin Lee

UFC 244 prelims, 8 p.m. on ESPN 2

Light heavyweight: Corey Anderson vs. Johnny Walker

Featherweight: Shane Burgos vs. Makwan Amirkhani

Middleweight: Brad Tavares vs. Edmen Shahbazyan

Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

UFC 244 early prelims, 6:30 p.m. on UFC Fight Pass

Women's flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia

Welterweight: Lyman Good vs. Chance Rencountre

Featherweight: Julio Arce vs. Hakeem Dawodu

New York Sports