More than 20 years later, Gregor Gillespie still remembers everything about that day.
The name of the youth wrestling tournament. The name of the kid he beat. The name of the kid who beat him.
And, most importantly, the lesson his father, Brad, taught him.
“My dad instilled in me at a very young age, you shut up and you win, and you don’t talk,” said Gillespie, a Massapequa resident. “Let your wrestling or your fighting do the talking. And at some point, that gets you where you want to be. Maybe a little slower, but I’ll wait.”
Gillespie stuck with that formula, winning a New York State wrestling title while at Webster Schroeder High School, an NCAA national championship at Edinboro and all 12 fights of his mixed martial arts career so far.
Gillespie, 32, will face Yancy Medeiros in a lightweight bout on the main card of UFC Brooklyn on Saturday at Barclays Center. The bout will air on ESPN+. Should Gillespie be victorious, don’t expect any boisterous claims, juicy targeted comments or big bad callouts of other fighters. Not his style, he learned a long time ago.
“If you run your mouth and you get beat, you look really dumb,” Gillespie said, recalling his father’s teaching. “I think you keep your mouth shut and you just do your job. I know it’s an entertainment business and I know that it brings a different aspect to it. But so does being the mysterious guy with a little bit of anonymity to him.”
Gillespie’s anonymity dwindles the more he shines in the octagon. He’s a wrestler by trade, sure, but he has four straight finishes, including two knockouts. His steady climb landed him the No. 15 spot in the UFC lightweight rankings heading into this bout.
Gillespie (12-0, 5-0 UFC) called the ranking “nice, I guess,” as he remains focused on the larger goal.
“The ultimate goal is to have the ‘C’ next to your name,” said Gillespie, referring to champion. “Not the 1 or the 2 or a number. You want the letter.”
Medeiros has neither. But he does have more experience — he’s 15-5 (6-5 UFC) with one no contest and eight knockouts — and more length. Medeiros, from Hawaii, has a four-plus inch reach advantage.
“He wrestles a lot,” Medeiros said. “You know his style. You know what he’s going to do, and he knows what I’m going to do. But I’m a whole different optimal human being now."
Gillespie may not deliver on the microphone the way some fans (and video editors) may prefer, but he’s not an introvert. His life pretty much is on full display on his Instagram feed. Even fishing tips.
“My life is, I’m training,” Gillespie said. “When I’m not training, I’m driving to another training session. And if I’m not at one of those, I’m probably helping a kid wrestle. Training a kid in wrestling. And if I’m not doing that, I’m fishing.”
Gillespie’s training regimen, whether he has a fight coming up or not, is admirable. In the course of a week, he gets in 19 workouts — three a day from Monday through Saturday, then an intense strength and conditioning workout Sunday morning while the rest of us are either sleeping or standing in line at the bagel shop.
That’s every week. No days off. Technically, there’s a 24-hour rest period somewhere in there. Although, for this fight, he actually took one entire day off. No sparring. No hitting mitts. No wrestling. No Jiu-Jitsu. No long bike rides. No cardio of any kind.
“It was very weird.”
It was Christmas day.