The fighter was willing to wait for an injured Robert Whittaker to recover so they can reschedule their canceled title bout, but accepted a fight with Adesanya after that option didn’t come to fruition.
“When it happened, you kind of just sit around and dwell on the fact that you’re not going to fight, and this opportunity was missed,” Gastelum told MMA Junkie. “So I’m not kind of one to dwell on things like that too much. So a couple hours passed, and I was just kind of like, ‘Where do we go from here? What’s the next step?’ It only seems fair to rebook the fight as soon as possible with Rob. But we knew that wasn’t going to happen, so we felt like an interim belt was coming, and sure enough, I got the offer to fight Adesanya in April, and I took it.”
A top ranked Gastelum knows the interim title isn’t the same as the UFC Middleweight Championship, liking it more to a number one contenders prize.
“It’s for a world title, but at the same time it’s kind of like for the No. 1 contender’s spot with a little prize,” Gastelum said. “It’s kind of how I think. It’s a little bittersweet that I’m not fighting for the undisputed title against Rob in Australia, but at the end of the day this has been the longest layoff of my career, and I just wanted to fight. So I’m just like, ‘Give me a fight, give me a fight and make it for a title.’”
UFC 236 takes place on Saturday, April 13 from the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia with Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.