These days, Gastelum is working out when he can as he recovers from an LCL tear in January, and as the UFC prepares to return to action in May, he’s starting to get itchy to make his first start since a split decision loss to Darren Till last November.

“After the Adesanya fight, I felt like I had something to prove, so I jumped right into another fight and a very good fight against Darren Till,” he said. “All credit to him, he did a really good job that night, but I didn’t really feel like myself that night, and I’m pretty sure everybody else saw that too. So as soon as things are up and running, I’m throwing my name in the hat, for sure. I want to be able to fight in July, so hopefully everything is back to normal; if not, then we’ll be fighting in an empty arena or something. But July is when I want to get back.”

Full house or not, Gastelum’s has embraced the time off to not just rehab his knee, but to let his body rest after two grueling battles in 2019. And though he didn’t get the results he wanted, he remains a top ten contender at 185 pounds and a legit title threat. As such, he isn’t looking for any tune-up fights in his return. He’s got his eyes on the belt and he wants to fight anyone who can help shorten his route back to a title bout.

“I have to work my way back up, and somebody in the top five for sure has to accept a fight with me,” he said. “I gotta keep taking steps forward, so the opponent has to be right, the date has to be right, and we’ll get back on track. I’m only 28 years old; I haven’t even hit my physical prime yet. I feel like I have so much more room for growth and I still feel like I’m a beginner. I’m excited because we’re putting all these experiences together – the good, the bad, the championship loss, everything. I’m a little bit smarter, a little bit more mature, a little bit more experienced, and we’re gonna make another run.”