MEXICO CITY — Kelvin Gastelum and Jake Ellenberger obviously differ on who they think will win Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 180. But they can agree on one thing: Ellenberger should be the favorite coming in.
The sportsbooks don’t line up with the fighters’ beliefs, though. Gastelum is more than a 2-to-1 favorite across the board. That surprises both men.
"I honestly don’t think I’m the favorite," Gastelum told FOX Sports at media day Thursday here. "With the fans, I think everybody should expect him to win. He’s one of the best in the world. He’s beaten some of the best in the world."
Article continues below ...
Gastelum (9-0) has a point. Ellenberger (29-8) has defeated the likes of Jake Shields, Diego Sanchez and Nate Marquardt. He’s been in there with Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald. Gastelum, 23, is a top prospect and one of the most promising young fighters in MMA. But he doesn’t have the experience wielded by Ellenberger. Gastelum’s best victory is over Rick Story and he’s coming off a victory over Nico Musoke, an unknown, in June.
"Honestly, I couldn’t tell you one guy he’s fought and that doesn’t mean anything either," Ellenberger said.
Ellenberger, 29, who is coming off two straight losses, has paid very little attention to the odds. He is ranked No. 7 among welterweight contenders in the UFC and Gastelum is No. 11. But "The Juggernaut" doesn’t put much stock into that stuff, either.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you one guy he’s fought and that doesn’t mean anything either.
-Jake Ellenberger on Kelvin Gastelum
"It’s like rankings," he said. "They don’t really mean anything. Rankings and records, they don’t really mean a lot. There’s a lot of debate."
Gastelum, a Mexican American from Arizona, thinks being the favorite has to do with the support he’ll receive from the fans Saturday night at Arena Ciudad de Mexico. Ellenberger has no idea, but has some advice for potential bettors.
"Put money on me, I guess," he said with a laugh.
Lamas showing more of his personality
Ricardo Lamas is a self-described joker in private and, as we learned this week, one heck of an impressionist. He just tends to play things close to the vest when he has a fight coming up, so fans don’t really get to see that side of him.
"[My friends say], ‘Why don’t you act like this in front of the cameras?’" Lamas said Wednesday at open workouts. "I’m like ‘I don’t know, I’m in the zone.’ I’m a different person during fight week. But I’m trying to work on getting my real personality out there more."
Lamas (14-3), who meets Dennis Bermudez in a key featherweight fight Saturday, has some dead-on impersonations. FOX Sports caught him on video above doing Robert De Niro, Conor McGregor and Anderson Silva. "The Bully" plans on being showing his personality more from here.
"I have no problem saying what I want and I’m going to continue to get more vocal about what I want to do with my career," Lamas said.
That doesn’t mean Lamas is going to turn into McGregor overnight. In Spanish, the former featherweight No. 1 contender called McGregor a "bulls***er."
"Not being a clown and trash talking and saying, ‘Oh look at this pocket watch, three people died making it,’" Lamas said.
Time is now for ‘Diablito’
Alejandro Perez is getting his UFC opportunity after nine years of fighting.
MMA is still a relatively new sport in Mexico. Just don’t tell that to Alejandro Perez.
"El Diablito" has been a pro in the country since 2005. To give you an idea of how long ago that is, it was the year The Ultimate Fighter 1 premiered. Perez (15-5) is just 25, but started his career at age 16.
He always knew the UFC would eventually get to Mexico. He just didn’t know if it would be during his fighting days.
"I knew they were going to get here, but I thought it wasn’t going to be during my times," Perez told FOX Sports at media day Thursday through an interpreter.
Perez faces Jose "Teco" Quinonez on Saturday night in the bantamweight finals of the TUF Latin America series. Perez said he’ll have goosebumps when he walks out, because it’ll be the first time his fans from local Mexican MMA can see him on the big stage.
"I started training when I was very young and it was my love," Perez said. "It was what I wanted to do."
Smith ready for a change?
Leslie Smith has been having such a good time in Mexico City this week that she has thought about moving here.
Smith, who meets Jessica Eye on Saturday on the FOX Sports 1 prelims, took Spanish in school and spent three months in Ecuador. So she’s been able to communicate fairly well with the locals.
"I definitely need more practice, but I’ve been really having fun," Smith said. "Everyone is so patient and encouraging and helping me with different words. I texted my boyfriend actually that maybe we should think about living here."