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Gillespie's competitive spirit won't let him feel settled


There has been no fishing for Gregor Gillespie in the last few weeks leading up to his fourth UFC bout against Jordan Rinaldi this Saturday. For any other avid fisherman, that would be torture. For Gillespie, it’s a reminder.

“I like to deprive myself a little bit,” he said. “It kind of puts me into business mode. There has to be some variation in my life that says, ‘Hey, this is training camp, this is fight time now.’ I do everything so regimented the rest of the year, that if I cut out fishing, it puts me in the fight time mentality.”

How regimented? The 31-year-old New Yorker compares it to something you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

Gregor Gillespie punches Jason Gonzalez during the UFC Fight Night on September 16, 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)“Other than fishing, I live kind of a prison sentence-type lifestyle,” he said. “Work out, eat, sleep, work out, eat, sleep, work out, eat, sleep, fish. I cut out fishing, oh, it must be fight time.”

He laughs, especially when asked to repeat the whole prison thing again.

“To most people, my lifestyle would be a prison sentence,” Gillespie explains. “I need structure in my life, I’ve seen where my life goes when I don’t have structure and I really don’t like that path, so it’s just how it is. The way I have to live isn’t the way most people would be able to live. I accepted that and that’s my plight.”

So when does he get paroled?

“Who the hell knows? But wherever my aim is, it’s gonna be a strict lifestyle, that’s how it is. I want to be a teacher when I’m done fighting, so instead of workouts, it will be schoolwork, then the work that’s involved with being a teacher. That will be my focus. I probably won’t compete in any hand-to-hand combat anymore, but I’ll probably race my bike or something. I’ll always be competitive.”

That’s been the way for Gillespie since he first hit the wrestling mats as a kid, and he’s never stopped. A 2007 Division I National title for Edinboro University was the major result for the four-time All-American, and after turning pro in MMA in 2014, he’s won all ten of his fights, with three of those victories coming in the UFC. As far as prospects go, he’s blue chip, but to say that there’s an ounce of contentment in what he’s done to this point would be far from accurate.

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“It’s like a drug addict,” he said. “It’s never enough. And that’s the way anything competitive is. You think if you have a certain amount of money or if you have this car or whatever the case may be, it will be enough and it never is. You think you’ll be comfortable and you’re never comfortable, and that’s a similar feeling to what I have now. Obviously, I’m not worried about being cut at this point, but I’m not a household name. I’m here to stay, and I think I probably am, but it’s never enough when you’re talking about being competitive at something. You’ll never be settled.”

Gillespie celebrates his knockout victory over Andrew Holbrook at UFC 210 on April 8, 2017 in Buffalo, NY. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC) Sounds like Mr. Gillespie is not a lot of fun, especially when he notes that he’s eaten the same thing every day for seven years.

“I’m not a lot of fun,” he chuckles. “I’m hard to deal with.”

I wouldn’t necessarily say that about the latter part of his statement, as he’s been a true pro throughout his UFC run. That means he trains hard, makes weight, shows up and fights. And if you’re looking for trash talk or social media antics from him, this isn’t that guy.

“I talk about this quite frequently with my best friend Kyle Cerminara,” Gillespie said. “He says, ‘Man, you are completely different from 99.9 percent of the other fighters out there. You don’t buy into the lifestyle.’ And I don’t. It’s just my choice and the way that I choose to live. Do I want fans? Of course I want fans, but I’m not going to sell my soul for it and I’m not gonna change who I am.

“You see all these people trying to be like Conor McGregor,” he continues. “There’s only one Conor McGregor and people can tell if that’s organic or it’s manufactured and 90 percent of the people that are talking trash to each other, it’s manufactured and easily detectable. I’m just being myself. Maybe at one point in my life when I was a little younger I did want to be famous, and if I do become famous, that’s perfect and I won’t fight it, but I’m not going out of my way for it. I’m just trying to win some fights, make some money and do the right thing along the way.”

Gregor Gillespie epitomizes what the fighting life should be. It’s about hard work, sacrifice and the quest to always get better. It’s not for everyone, but there should be a semblance of peace in that struggle. But is there joy? He says there is.

“The joy is in knowing that my life is not in shambles. It’s a lot of work and sometimes I feel overworked, but when I don’t have any aim or structure, I know where my life heads, and I lose a lot of the things that I do hold dear. So the joy that I get is knowing that I have the respect and trust of people that I love, and that’s enough to keep me happy, and as long as they go fishing with me I’m happy.”