Gunni: Dublin main event against Maia “would have been perfect”


Gunnar Nelson showcased a dynamic skillset in his last outing as he forced knockout artist Brandon Thatch to the canvas with an explosive combination before he finished the American with a rear naked choke.

As a reward for the first round win at UFC 189, the Icelandic welterweight has been given another main card billing alongside teammate Conor McGregor as he faces Brazilian jiu-jitsu icon Demian Maia as part of the UFC 194 card at the MGM Grand on December 12. The Mjolnir front-runner has fond memories of his North American debut back in July, where he claimed the travelling Irish fans created a “magical” backdrop to the proceedings.

“It was amazing,” remembered Nelson. “The Irish crowd, as I’ve said before, is something that is hard to describe if you never experienced it. It literally felt like we were in Dublin even though we were in Vegas. There were so many Irish people in every part of the arena, it was magical really.”

Nelson often describes Dublin as his second home having spent a great deal of time living in the Irish capital under the tutelage of SBG head coach John Kavanagh.

Before Joseph Duffy and Dustin Poirier were confirmed as the main event for UFC’s Irish return on October 24, the rumour mill was rife with speculation concerning Nelson versus Maia as the card’s headline bout. Later it emerged that a staph infection ruled the Brazilian out of the Dublin card, and although it was not revealed whether the fight was set to be main event in the Irish capital, Nelson insisted that it would have been a “perfect” situation for him.

“I was a little disappointed,” stated Nelson regarding the location of the Maia bout changing from Dublin to Vegas. “I was looking forward to fighting in Dublin again, it would have been perfect to fight Maia as a main event. To me, it sounded like the Irish people wanted that.

“I don’t know, it would have been great, but obviously he got injured. UFC were trying to get some other guys in there, but nobody was available. The fight has been made for December though and I know there will be a lot of Irish fans in Vegas that weekend as well.”

Having been in the Octagon to celebrate alongside McGregor after his interim title win at UFC 189, ‘Gunni’ claimed that seeing ‘The Notorious’ raising the gold was a “huge motivation” for him.

“Seeing Conor lift the belt was an amazing experience. We’ve been together for a long time, since the start, and seeing him doing so well and winning the belt, that’s a huge motivation for me. It’s a nice thing to see your friend and training partner do so well. It makes the team stronger, it makes everything better.”

As far as what a win over Maia would do for Nelson’s title trajectory, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt believes he is more than ready to tackle UFC’s welterweight top tier.

“I think I’ll be fighting all of the top contenders in the near future. My plan is to get the title soon and then after that I want to fight all of the guys that I didn’t get to fight on my way up. I don’t know who is going to be there (at the top of the division), but I don’t mind either. I respect all of these guys and I’m ready to fight them all. I just look forward to new challenges, the future will be full of good times,” he said.


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