Kelvin Gastelum shook up the MMA world by upsetting Uriah Hall to become the 17th winner of The Ultimate Fighter, and now he's ready to jump into the deep waters of the welterweight division.
While competing on the show as a middleweight, the 21-year-old Arizona-based fighter has decided to kick off his official UFC career at 170 pounds.
The welterweight division has long been one of the deepest, most talent-rich collections under the UFC banner, and Gastelum's initial test will come against a proven veteran in Paulo Thiago at UFC on Fox Sports 1: Condit vs. Kampmann 2 in Indianapolis.
While other TUF winners have eased their way out of the gates in the UFC, Gastelum is eager to prove his win over Hall was no fluke and will be looking to stake out his place in the divisional ranks at 170 pounds when he faces the savvy Brazilian on Aug. 28.
"They gave me a couple of guys and [Thiago] is the one I chose," Gastelum told Bleacher Report. "I chose him because he's a good name and he's fought a lot of big names in the division. At one time he was considered one of the top 15 welterweights in the world. I think it's the perfect fight for me. He carries a big name and I think it's a fight I can win.
"That was something that really bothered me," he added about his underdog role in the Hall fight. "People thought I was going to get murdered and already declared him the winner before we ever stepped into that cage.
"It really bothered me, but at the same time, it was something I never let get under my skin. I knew I was going to prove everyone wrong."
Following Gastelum's amazing turn on The Ultimate Fighter, the initial path to stardom and recognition was with the UFC fanbase. Last weekend at the UFC Fan Expo, the TUF winner's elevated profile came front and center with the passionate following of the sport's biggest promotion.
"Man, it is crazy," Gastelum replied when asked about the increased recognition. "It's a dream come true. I'm totally stoked and excited about it.
"Every five steps I'm getting stopped for autographs and pictures. It's crazy. The people really appreciate what I've done and it's just awesome to get that kind of response from people."
Duane Finley is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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