And White told BT Sport he has nothing but admiration for the Liverpool-native.
“I said things in the press that I felt like we rushed that kid and here he goes,” he said. “He wants to fight Gastelum at a higher weight and I love it, I respect it.
“So we tried to talk him out of it, he wasn’t having it, that’s the fight he wanted and so we did it. Much respect to him.”
And when asked if his foe in November had any doubts, White received an equally succinct answer.
“No, Gastelum’s one of those guys that there’s never hesitation – he’ll fight anyone.”
The move up a weight class is a tried and tested method in MMA, with the aforementioned main event taking place at welterweight – despite both Diaz and Masvidal starting their professional careers as lightweights.
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And given how brutal Till’s weight cuts to 170lbs were and how devastating both of his previous two fights ended, a move up a division seems a natural route to take.
Considering Gastelum himself was also once a welterweight, it seems as though Till has the perfect fight to finally make a statement in this division.
White added: “And this might be one of those situations where maybe we didn’t rush him; he was at the wrong weight class.
“He was cutting too much weight and didn’t work for him. We’ve seen it happen for other fighters, so maybe that’s the case for Till.”
Till’s weight cutting to the welterweight limit during the early part of his UFC career were legendary, even missing weight for his fight against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in May 2018.
In fact, so draining was the process to get down to 170lbs, the 26-year-old even revealed he went blind at times and nearly died.
After back-to-back losses at welterweight to Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal, a move up a division seemed the best thing for ‘The Gorilla’.
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When the 26-year-old was asked if he was pushed to do too much too soon in his career, he said no.
“I know I’m a better fighter than Woodley. I know I’m a better fighter than Masvidal, but those two were better than me on the night and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” he said before reaffirming his belief he would eventually become a UFC world champion.
And it seems Till is living up to his Gorilla nickname if his latest training footage is anything to go by.
Training out of Kaobon Gym in Liverpool, Till is working extensively under trainer Colin Heron to add size to his six foot frame.
Upcoming foe Gastelum has also experienced a move up in weight class, having been a career welterweight early on.
The move up paid dividends as he stopped former UFC middleweight Michael Bisping en route to losing an enthralling interim title fight to Israel Adesanya in March.
Darren Till is moving up to middleweight where he will face Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 244 on November 2.
Till will make his debut in the 185 pound class at Madison Square Garden having teased the step up in weight for over a year, but held off while he was near the top of the welterweight rankings.
However, since successive defeats to Tyron Woodley, where he was submitted in the third while challenging for the welterweight title, and Jorge Masvidal in his most recent bout, Till, 26, has decided upon a fresh challenge..
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto confirmed the fight on Monday night. “Darren Till is moving up,” he wrote on Twitter. “Till vs. Kelvin Gastelum at middleweight is a done deal for UFC 244 on Nov. 2 in NYC, per sources.”
The Liverpudlian will have a huge task on his hands up against Gastelum, himself a former welterweight, who has beaten the likes of Johnny Hendricks, Michael Bisping and Ronaldo Souza.
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His career record reads 15-4, with the California native’s most recent fight, against Israel Adesanya, ending in defeat earlier this year.
The unanimous decision loss at UFC 236 resulted in Gastelum failing at his shot for the interim middleweight title, and he’s currently the fourth ranked fighter in the division.
The main event for UFC 244 is still to be determined, though various reports claim Kamaru Usman will clash with Colby Covington on the card.
He seemed to be the only person in the O2 who saw it that way. talkSPORT caught up with Roberts ahead of his battle against UFC debutant Michel Pereira on Saturday and asked what exactly happened last time.
“Simply put, it was a hard-fought fight,” Roberts started. “And there was a few moments throughout the fight before the ending came where you could say there was a little bit of politics with it. I did not submit. I did not verbally submit. I didn’t submit in any kind of way. At the time, I could hear Claudio [Silva] talking to the ref and encouraging him, so it’s just something where it’s a fight, you know? It’s between me and him and it doesn’t really involve that third party.
“The third party is there to watch and oversee, make sure that everyone is safe. Follow by the rules too, and that’s it. So the influence the ref got from him in the fight was one of the major upsets for me and the hardest thing to swallow. It wasn’t necessarily fair in that sense. It was a hard pill to swallow at the time, but, at the same time, it has just fuelled me even more going into this fight with Michel Pereira.”
UFC president Dana White agreed with Roberts’ assertion and made his feelings clear on Twitter that night. While Hot Chocolate is pleased White agreed, ultimately, he couldn’t take much solace from it.
“At the same time, it doesn’t get the result that I wanted and needed. It still goes down as a loss moving forward and in the world that we live in, you’re only as good as your last fight. If we look back at this in two years time, it’s still a loss. For me, I came out of that fight with a lot of tension. I wanted a rematch. I got my agent and my team and we tried to arrange something. I wanted to let the guy’s face heal – as you could see, the damage was on his face and not mine – and I wanted a rematch straight away and I asked for it in Brazil. His home turf and yet, it wasn’t something that we were able to get.
“I’m hopeful that one day in the future we can get this show back on the road between me and him. He’s a guy who hasn’t had a loss in over 11 years, got a lot of stuff going on and I just felt like he played the game a little bit into his hands. To me, that’s a dirty, sly move to do. So personally, as a fighter, I haven’t got that much respect for him.”
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But, what about his next test, Pereira? Another Brazilian, Pereira has made his name with viral videos and Roberts insists that won’t help him when they square off.
“He’s a tricky one, I’m not going to lie,” Roberts cautioned. “We’ve watched some footage on him, the viral videos that got him into the UFC; his backflips, his spinning kicks – so he’s got a lot of unpredictability when it comes to fighting. Now, if you look at the scales when it comes to the fight, you’ve got me on one side who is a very dominant, true, heart-to-heart kind of fighter and on the other side you’ve got a showman.
“So it’s probably going to be a fan favourite fight and probably Fight of the Night. As far as training goes, we’ve got a wealth of talent at Hard Knocks 365 and we’ve got our own plan that we’re going to execute on the night. We can expose the holes in Pereira’s game and I’m going to shut him down real quick.”
The welterweight division is stacked with talent and big names right now. Kamara Usman recently usurped Tyron Woodley as the champion at 170lbs, but there is also names like Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Darren Till, Leon Edwards, Robbie Lawler and Stephen Tompson that would all makes great fights – to name just a few.
Sow how does Roberts go about cracking the top 10? It seems like he’ll have every opportunity after revealing that he has signed a new contract with UFC.
“I know my ability, I know my true self. Apart from a few small errors under the lights, still to this day, I don’t feel like I’ve been dominated by any man. The UFC know, I’ve just re-signed a new deal with them and UFC knows there’s plenty more to come with me. I was on a two-fight win streak before what happened at the O2, so now we need to get back on a winning streak, build, get a little bit of momentum behind us and a year, two years down the line I know I’m going to be in the top 10 and forcing my will on the top talent.”
What about the UK talent, though? Edwards and Till hold top 10 positions in the UFC and could be interesting domestic showdowns with Roberts.
“We’ve got UK talent. I know what the UFC are like; every now and again you’re going to get the best versus the best or you’re going to get hometown fighters fighting hometown fighters. Me and Till are both from Liverpool. We’ve spoken before and he’s a nice guy, but for the sport we’re in, we have to fight. I’ll fight anyone, anytime anywhere and that’s just the way I am. So if it came down to it and UFC offered me Till, of course, I wouldn’t turn that down. But again, the welterweight division has a wealth of talent so it’s one of them, we’ll have to see.”
Roberts takes on Pereira at UFC Fight Night 152 in Rochester, New York on Saturday as part of a card headlined by fellow welterweights Rafael dos Anjos Vs Kevin Lee. You can watch it on BT Sport.
It is the latest in a series of jibes exchanged between the presenter and the MMA fighter, but it remains unclear what exactly triggered this animosity.
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While the Good Morning Britain host is know for his outspoken posts and quick-witted put downs, Till is far from a shrinking violet, previously telling Morgan: “You need a smack in the chin that’s what you need.”
He has also compared Morgan to a “sloth’s a***hole” and hit out at his love life.
Not one to let a insult slide, Morgan sent a message to Till prior to his bout with Masvidal.
He wrote: “Morning @darrentill2 – see how you get on against @GamebredFighter on March 16 & let’s chin-chin after that… if he doesn’t break your jaw.”
The Irishman has two previous fights at welterweight – a win and a loss against rival Nate Diaz. A trilogy fight would appear to be the Irishman’s most likely move given the financial clout the bout would bring all parties involved.
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Till has admitted a move up to middleweight might be his next option given the difficulty he has making the 170lb welterweight limit.
Either way, a British Isles clash with two of the best strikers in the UFC at a packed out Anfield stadium would be incredibly big.
Darren Till failed to become just the second British UFC world champion as Tyron Woodley secured a submission win over the 25-year-old at UFC 228.
In Texas, Woodley sent Till to the floor early in the second, before forcing the Liverpool fighter to tap out with 41 seconds of the round remaining.
Till more than held his own in the first round, but 36-year-old Woodley dominated the second round and deserved his win.
“Tyron was the better man,” Till said. “I’m gutted. I’ll be back stronger.
“It just really, really hurts.”
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Woodley, who has proven talk of him being past his best is premature, commented: “He’s a tough kid. My coach told me I’ve got to be ready to go all the way in. I was just taking my time – I saw he wasn’t going away easy and took my time to get the job done.
“This feels pretty awesome. I don’t believe in ring rust, but I’ve been away for 14 months.”
Earlier in the evening, there were wins for Diego Sanchez, Darren Stewart, Zabit Magomedsharipov and Jessica Andrade.
Since then he has seen off Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia to retain his crown.
However, this is a ‘super fight’ according to the champion.
“My focus right now is fighting Darren Till, going out there and putting on a great performance,” he said. “A fighter that’s worthy of my attention, bringing true skills to the table. I think that should be my focus. We’ll talk about any other type of fights after this fight is over with.”
Till is undefeated in 18 mixed martial arts fights. “Getting this belt won’t make me content,” he said. “Winning the middleweight belt after this one won’t make me content. The only time you will see me content is when everyone is calling me the greatest fighter of all time.”
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