Gregor Gillespie: UFC on ESPN 24 Win ‘Took Most Character and Heart’ of MMA Career

By Tristen Critchfield May 9, 2021

As the opening round of his UFC on ESPN 24 matchup with Diego Ferreira drew to a close, Gregor Gillespie didn’t appear to be in a good place.

The former NCAA national champion wrestler struggled to hold Ferreira down in scrambles and ate several hard punches when the combatants were standing. After a grueling five minutes, Gillespie appeared to be on wobbly legs as he returned to his corner.

“A couple people have already told me I looked tired—because I was,” Gillespie said. “When people say ‘He’s out of shape,’ those are two different things. Being out of shape means you didn’t prepare correctly and you’re tired as a result. I was tired because of the pace we were doing.

“I’m not saying that was all me. He stuck with it. I had to really throw that at him and make it the pace of the fight, in the hopes he couldn’t keep doing it and knowing I probably could. I was extremely tired after Round 1, but I’m OK feeling that way.”

As it turned out, Gillespie was just getting started. As Ferreira faded, the 34-year-old New Yorker kept the pressure on, attempting takedown after takedown until he was finally able to control his opponent. Eventually, Gillespie scrambled to Ferreira’s back, flattened him out and ended the fight with punches and elbows 4:51 into Round 2.

“I take it personally when someone gets out or reverses me. The way that first round ended—I didn’t love that. I was in a bad spot and getting punched,” Gillespie said. “Had I just been able to stay on top, I would have won that round. My friend called me today and said just create as many scrambles as possible. You may get in some sticky spots, but you’ll always win that fight—and I did.”

Gillespie took pride in being able to overcome adversity and drag his opponent into deep waters.

“That’s the fight that took the most character and heart, that’s for damn sure,” he said. “That one’s definitely the most emotional. I’ve never cried after a fight before. That was a tough one. It felt really good for a number of reasons.”

The triumph was also significant because it was Gillespie’s first appearance since suffering a head kick knockout loss to Kevin Lee at UFC 244 in November 2019. Saturday night was an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.

“I haven’t won a fight in two years. I’ve only had one fight in two years and it wasn’t one I came in top in,” Gillespie said. “I have pretty thick skin, but I know there’s people out there who have questioned if I would ever fight again. The trolls online asking if I’m retired or still asleep from Kevin Lee. Then the Riddell fight got canceled. I was like, ‘Am I ever going to get back in there?’ Today I had my fingers crossed nothing silly would happen.”

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