This was the moment Gregor Gillespie had been waiting for since January. Really, since he started his mixed martial arts career.
A big fight, on a big stage against a top-ranked opponent. That it would occur at Madison Square Garden, close to his home in Massapequa, was a nice bonus.
It just didn’t end the way he envisioned it would.
Facing Kevin Lee, the No. 10 ranked lightweight, at UFC 244 on Saturday with President Donald Trump in attendance, Gillespie lost for the first time in his career. And he was knocked out before he hit the canvas.
“I think that’s the cleanest knockout of my career,” said Lee (18-5), who returned to lightweight after moving up to welterweight for one fight. “I think it’s something that he wasn’t expecting and that a lot of guys down at 155 weren’t expecting. I’m coming with a whole different type of power that these guys ain’t seen me throw before.”
Gillespie (13-1) and Lee (18-5) kept the fight on the feet, exchanging punches and combinations throughout the round. Gillespie attempted one shot on Lee, but he quickly abandoned the low single leg. Gillespie also feinted a couple of takedown attempts to keep the idea of it in Lee’s mind.
“I’m taking on the most decorated wrestler in this division and I wanted to put on a show,” Lee said of Gillespie, a former national champion at Edinboro. “I did not underestimate this man. This is most dangerous fight I’ve ever taken.”
Gillespie’s left jab was getting through Lee’s defense for much of the round, evidenced by the cut under his eye.
The final sequence came midway through the round. Gillespie threw a left jab and Lee countered with a right. As Gillespie backed up, his right side was open, allowing Lee to land a perfectly placed left kick to Gillespie’s jaw for the knockout at the 2:47 mark.
“I’ve got a lot of fights in the UFC, but I seriously feel like I’m just starting,” Lee said. “I was saying even before this fight, regardless of how it went, I feel that going up to Tri-Star [in Montreal] made me a better fighter. It made me more focused, I’ve always had the talent and the skills, but it’s been hard for me to put everything together, and now I feel like I’ve found the perfect place and the perfect guide to do that.”