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Exclusive: Gunnar Nelson On Returning In The Best Shape Of His Career

Gunnar Nelson spoke exclusively to us here at Pundit Arena MMA about his imminent return to the UFC octagon at UFC 231 this weekend and the work he has put in to ensure that he makes the most of it.

Rebounding from a loss is always a tough task but everything from the manner in which Gunnar lost out to Santiago Ponzinibbio in July of last year to the injuries that kept him out of action until now has made the road to his return especially difficult.

Facing the streaking Argentine Ponzinibbio in the UFC Glasgow main-event, Nelson seemed loose and confident, darting in and out before connecting with a beautifully-timed uppercut early on that left his man visibly staggered.

From there, the now infamous sequence began that saw Gunnar poked in the eye two or three times in the space of next twenty or so seconds before being swiftly KO’d at the 1:22 mark of the very first round.

Replays have shown that it was pretty blatant – and some might say intentional – but speaking to us here at Pundit Arena MMA, Nelson explained how he is now at peace with the loss – although he believes that a rematch with the seventh-ranked welterweight contender is something that is firmly in his future.

“I’ve accepted it. There’s no point talking about it anymore. It is what it is and I think people know what happened, a lot of people have seen it through close-ups and slow-motion.

“There’s nothing to be done in regards to that fight other than trying to get a rematch, which I will.

“It’s been a long layoff, a pain in the ass. I had a matchup before with Neil Magny but I, unfortunately, got injured, my knee, I had to go through surgery. It’s been a long one but I’ve built up some hunger and I am happy to be here now.

“It is what it is, you just have to accept it, make the most of it and I think that’s what I did. That point after the surgery where you can’t do anything, can’t train – that’s the hardest I think. But once you get going again and get training – it gets better. That’s what I love doing the most, working on my skills, so if I can train I’m happy.

It has been a relatively quiet time for Nelson as far as his appearances in the public eye have been concerned but last week he managed to grab quite a bit of attention after posting a picture to his official Instagram account showing a newly-transformed physique.

There’s no denying that the man is sporting more muscle than we’re used to seeing him carry. Nelson has always been a relatively trim welterweight and has made his thoughts on the practice of weight-cutting and its negative effects known, but now, it does look as though he is filling out to a certain extent.

How that will translate on fight-night remains to be seen but after spending his entire fight-camp in Mjolnir MMA ahead of his showdown with Alex Oliveira on Saturday night, Nelson attributes the change in his body to a new focus on strength and conditioning.

“We have a great camp back home. We’ve had a new conditioning coach for the last three months and I think that he is phenomenal – I’ve been training with him about two or three times a week and it’s really paying off.

“I think it’s mostly that, three months of doing strength and conditioning in training which I have never done before. I’ve done conditioning for my fights but not for this long and not at this level, not these kinds of sessions.

“One of the big differences as well is that I’m doing some weight-lifting, which I’ve really never done before. As well as keeping my diet very well and training very hard.

“This is the beginning of it you know. I’m going to start the proper climb now and get up there, fast.”

Read the second part of our interview with Gunnar Nelson where he discusses his opponent Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira and his title-aspirations here.

Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena

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Author: Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at [email protected]