Till: I was terrified ahead of Gastelum bout

MMA news

Darren Till has said he was “terrified” to step in the Octagon at UFC 244 after being finished in his last two fights.

The Liverpudlian defeated former title contender Kelvin Gastelum via split decision in the co-main event Saturday as he made his middleweight debut at Madison Square Garden, but said after the contest that his calm performance had followed intense pre-fight nerves.

“To tell you the utmost truth, I didn’t even want to go out there tonight,” Till (18-2-1) told BT Sport. “I was thinking of ways to like fake an injury. I’m getting a bit worked up saying it, sorry.

“Even walking out there tonight, I was so terrified, I was scared — not scared of fighting, I like getting hit, I enjoy it. I don’t know [what I was scared of].

“I was saying to [coach] Colin [Heron] in the corner, ‘I’m so scared.'”

Till was knocked out by UFC 244 main event winner Jorge Masvidal in London in his last fight, and before that was submitted by Tyron Woodley as he challenged for the then champion’s welterweight title.

The back to back defeats, which were the first of Till’s professional MMA career, both came in the second round, and brought about a period of personal difficulty for Till, the 26-year-old said.

“I just had some demons, because I know my skillset,” Till said. “I know when I’m sparring all these guys from around the world — and when I’m training and when I’m fighting — how good I am. And [to go from] invincible to being basically s— on the ground was devastating for me. I put a lot into this.

“I’ve given my heart and soul into this since I was a kid. I had a lot of family and people telling me that there were other paths and there were other jobs to do, and I just always knew I wanted this.

“I’m seeing now Jorge Masvidal is walking out, he knocked me out in my last fight … and it was hard, it was really hard.”

Till — who appeared much healthier at middleweight, having previously struggled to cut down to 170 pounds — also said he had been unperturbed by his late arrival in New York City, which was caused by visa issues. “The Gorilla” added that once he had entered the Octagon, his nerves dissipated.

“After the first round I was just like, what am I doing, I’m fine,” he said. “It probably wasn’t the most exciting fight, but it doesn’t have to be all the time. Sometimes you’ve got to be calculated and calm. I got into the swing of things and I wasn’t even bothered about the win, I was just glad I overcame what I overcame.

“To step up in weight and fight a guy like [Gastelum], although I’m not scared of anyone, it was really terrifying. Right now I’m just so relieved.”

Till won the contest on two of the judges’ scorecards (30-27, 29-28), while another judge scored the bout in favour of Gastelum (30-27).

Although Gastelum weighed in at 184 pounds on Thursday, two pounds under the non-title middleweight limit, the New York State Athletic Commission said it would take action after the fighter “made contact with another person while on the scale.”

Multiple video angles of the weigh-in appeared to show Gastelum’s elbow touching his coach, Rafael Cordeiro, as the 28-year-old was on the scale.

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