Former “The Ultimate Fighter” champion Kelvin Gastelum believes the reality show has grown a bit stale.
He hopes to breathe new life into it when he begins his coaching stint on Season 28 in the next few weeks.
“I feel like a lot of people unfortunately are over ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’” Gastelum said backstage at UFC 226 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. “It kinda has been dull and boring. That’s how I feel. I don’t know how the spectators feel. That’s how I felt. I felt like I’m going to try my best to be able to bring back a sparkle to what ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ is.”
It’s a tall task for Gastelum, who is matched up opposite middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. Both fighters are polite and low-key — neither is known as much of a trash-talker — but Gastelum believes the show, which may be in its final season with the advent of the organization’s new ESPN deal, will still be entertaining.
“I’ve been around Rob,” said Gastelum, who vowed not to manufacture artificial drama. “He’s a chill guy, a good guy. I’m a pretty laid-back guy. This is a competition, and it could be pretty interesting.”
Gastelum will challenge Whittaker for the belt at the end of the season, likely in December.
UFC light heavyweight contender Volkan Oezdemir had his day in court Monday.
It didn’t last long.
Oezdemir’s felony battery case was dropped in Broward County (Florida) when the alleged victim refused to cooperate. The charges stemmed from an incident outside a bar in Fort Lauderdale when a man claimed Oezdemir knocked him out.
The case caused Oezdemir to miss out on at least one opportunity to compete on an international card as his passport was seized pending the outcome.
He is now scheduled to face Alexander Gustafsson on the UFC 227 card in Los Angeles on Aug. 4.
Ngannou breaks silence
Fans inside T-Mobile Arena expressed their disappointment in Saturday night’s heavyweight dud between Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis at UFC 226 with loud boos, the wave and even collectively lighting up the arena with cell phone lights.
Ngannou wasn’t happy with the lack of action, either.
“I am not proud of my last performance,” he wrote Monday on social media. “I have carried my fear from the last fight to this one. I completely understand the frustration (and) anger that it has caused to my fans, coaches, teammates, family and friends and I am truly sorry for that. I won’t let everyone down again. All I can do now is prove myself and make you proud again.”
Ngannou was a juggernaut before taking a 25-minute beating in a title bout against Stipe Miocic in January.
His bizarre inability to engage with Lewis can be traced to that loss, according to the Las Vegan Ngannou.
UFC president Dana White had a different take. He believes Ngannou’s ego needed to get under control after he was hyped as the next great heavyweight star before he ever even fought for a belt.
“I think that he had a pretty quick rise here and obviously the fight over Alistair Overeem catapulted him,” White said at Saturday’s postfight news conference. “Everybody was talking about him. I thought he was going to be the next guy. I think his ego ran away from him big time. I can tell you that his ego absolutely did run away with him. And the minute that happens to you in the fight game, you see what happens. You start to fall apart.”
Ngannou landed just 11 significant strikes in the 15-minute fight, a unanimous decision loss to Lewis.
UFC heads to Boise
The UFC will host its first event in Idaho this week when UFC Fight Night 133 takes place in Boise.
Former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos will take on Blagoy Ivanov in the headliner of the six-fight main card, which airs on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m.
Popular welterweight Sage Northcutt is also on the card against Zak Ottow.
— Friday: Bellator 202 (Paramount), Thackerville, Okla.
— Saturday: UFC Fight Night 133 (FS1), Boise, Idaho
— Saturday: Bellator 203 (Paramount), Rome
— July 22: UFC Fight Night 134 (FS1), Hamburg, Germany
— July 28: UFC on Fox 30 (Fox), Calgary, Alberta, Canada
— Aug. 4: UFC 227 (FS1/PPV), Los Angeles