As the opening round of his
UFC on ESPN 24
matchup with Diego
drew to a close, Gregor
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.”