It's become such a thing in mixed martial arts now, this public calling-out of the next person a fighter wants to face, that it's a default question in a post-fight interview in the cage. It allows for a star-making turn, for sure, and certainly can enthuse a fan base.
See Nate Diaz's suggestion after beating Anthony Pettis at UFC 241 that he'd next like to fight Jorge Masvidal. Within minutes, Twitter was flooded with enthusiastic agreement by fans, each trying to one-up the previous person with GIFs instead of words. Online betting PR folks sent emails with early odds for a potential fight.
That's never been Gregor Gillespie's arena, despite being an undefeated fighter and the No. 11 ranked lightweight in the UFC. He always has been as public about not calling out a fighter as those are who do it.
That changed a bit on Wednesday when Gillespie (13-0), a former NCAA national champion wrestler who trains at Bellmore Kickboxing MMA, finally played along. He did it his way, though, in a respectful manner.
“So for the last six fights, everyone has been pressuring and annoying me to call somebody out. I never wanted to, but I think it’s time to play the game," Gillespie said in a video posted on his Instagram account. "I want my first call-out to count. So ‘Showtime' Pettis, although I think you’re a great fighter, I think it’s time to go back to 155 and meet me at MSG Nov. 2. What do you say?”
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So for the last 6 fights everyone has been pressuring and annoying me to call someone out....I never wanted to but it looks like I am going to have to play the game...I want my first “call out” to count so...... @showtimepettis I think you are a great fighter, but you are in the wrong weight class, come back down to 155 and meet me at MSG on November 2. @arielhelwani @danawhite @showtimepettis @ufc @seanshelby
The Wheaties box was a nice touch, though. Pettis was featured on a Wheaties box in 2014 when he was lightweight champion.
Gillespie isn't one to run his mouth. But he felt like it was time to play the game a little bit.
"Because I haven't fought since January," Gillespie told Newsday via text message on Friday. "And I'm trying to expedite the process of getting a fight against a guy in the top five or 10."
Pettis has yet to respond to Gillespie. Not that he needs to. These things have a tendency to work themselves out, one way or another.
Gillespie, one of four active UFC fighters to have won a New York State high school wrestling title, was considered a top prospect when he debuted in the UFC in September 2016. With each of his fights, he has shed part of that prospect moniker and become more of a legitimate contender. He is 6-0 in the UFC, with his last five fights all ending early. He has three knockouts and two submissions in that run, most recently stopping Yancy Medeiros via second round TKO at UFC Brooklyn in January.
Pettis (22-8) has moved around in weight classes over the years. A former lightweight champion in the UFC and WEC, Pettis moved down to featherweight before coming back up to 155 pounds. His last two fights were at welterweight, where he called out Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson for his first fight at 170 (and won via knockout), then lost to Diaz earlier this month. Duke Roufus, Pettis' longtime coach, said recently that he feels his fighter will return to 155 pounds for his next bout.