Gregor Gillespie: Knockout loss to Kevin Lee doesn’t mean I’m not top-10 material

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Gregor Gillespie suffered his first professional loss earlier this month, but he still believes he’s top-10 material.

Gillespie (13-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) got his shot to vault up the lightweight rankings when he took on former UFC interim title challenger Kevin Lee at UFC 244, but things didn’t go his way.

Even though Gillespie suffered a first-round knockout loss to Lee, he still believes he has what it takes to compete with the best in the division.

“I want another top-10 guy, I’ll say that,” Gillespie said on the “Anik and Florian” podcast. “Obviously I don’t think that loss is an indication that I don’t belong in the top 10. I think it’s one of those things that happens. I want to absolutely state this. I am not saying I got caught or Kevin Lee got lucky. There’s absolutely nothing lucky about what he did. I will give him all the credit in the World. It was a perfectly placed, a perfectly timed, perfectly executed kick, and that’s what every fighter hopes they can do in a fight.”

A four-time NCAA Division I All-American, Gillespie possesses some of the best wrestling credentials in MMA, but he didn’t really get a chance to display them against Lee.

Gillespie says it’s easier said than done, and it’s easier to critique something after knowing the outcome. He proceeded to break down how the fight panned out, and responded to questions about why he didn’t attempt to wrestle more.

“We were talking to my coaches, and we were talking to my teammates, would I have probably wrestled, maybe I would have forced a little more wrestling action in the beginning, but it was really tough,” Gillespie said. “First of all, Kevin Lee is a super good grappler, wrestler, whatever you want to call it, so that’s not a foreign area for him and also his stance was so low. He was obviously waiting for the takedown. He’s been coached really well, as far as that was concerned, and it wasn’t the right time. If there’s someone who knows the right time to shoot, it’s me.”

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“In my opinion I was winning the exchanges,” Gillespie added. “I think I did some damage in the striking. It was obviously fairly even, but I felt I was winning slightly, but would if I would have taken a shot at that point when he was low. I would have ate a knee and got knocked out that way, and then everyone would have said you were winning the exchanges, your striking looked good, why did you go for this shot, he was waiting for it.”

A knockout loss can often be a bitter pill to swallow, especially for a previously unbeaten fighter, and while Gillespie admits it wasn’t the best feeling in the World, he knows it’s the nature of the game.

“I haven’t experienced a loss since wrestling, which would have been I guess 2011,” Gillespie said. “That’s a long time ago. Thirteen wins is a good amount, and again it’s been years since I’ve suffered a loss, so obviously in the back of your mind when you are a fighter and you’re getting into the higher levels of the opponents, you always wonder what if I do lose. That’s not self doubt; that’s just being realistic.

“Obviously it’s devastating. Obviously (I was) sad and upset and all those normal feelings you would be when you lose, but I didn’t have any regrets as far as how I approached the fight, how I trained for the fight, how I prepared. Anything leading up to that, I think we did everything perfect and everything normal, and it’s just one of those things that I was fighting a really good opponent, and he did obviously some perfect things, and that’s the result.”

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While Gillespie can’t determine an exact timetable for a return, he is anxious to get back in the octagon and back in the win column.

“I feel like I really need to get back in there and redeem myself, sometime in the spring,” Gillespie said. “I think as far as I know at this point, I’m still on medical suspension, so I’m sure they want me to wait a little bit as far as that goes.”

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