Report- UFC 231: Gunnar Nelson eyes ‘active 2019’ after ‘annoying’ time on sidelines – EXCLUSIVE | UFC | Sport

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Updated: December 8, 2018
UFC 231: Gunnar Nelson eyes ‘active 2019’ after ‘annoying’ time on sidelines - EXCLUSIVE | UFC | Sport

Injuries have restricted the fan-favourite to just two appearances in the cage in the last 24 months.

Nelson was recently scheduled to lock horns with Neil Magny in the co-main event of the UFC’s debut card in Liverpool in May.

A knee injury put paid to those plans and meant fans of the Iceland native would have to wait a while longer to see him back in action.

“It was very annoying,” Nelson told Express Sport when reflecting of his withdrawal from UFC Fight Night 130. “We’d been trying to get a match-up for a while and finally we get Neil Magny, who I was really happy about fighting – a great fighter, and I was really excited about that matchup.

“And then for that to happen at that timing is – a week before a fight I bust my knee completely, it sucked. But that’s the game sometimes.”

Welcoming the Mjolnir and SBG product back to the cage will be Alex Oliveira, an opponent Nelson is delighted to have after his longer than expected layoff.

“I’m happy,” Nelson said of his match-up with Oliveira. “But to be honest with you, I would’ve taken anyone at this stage as it’s been so long that I’ve fought. I just wanted to get in there.

“Alex is a great fighter and he’s a ranked fighter as well. So I was really happy with this match-up.”

Oliveira, the No.13 ranked 170-pounder in the world, is one of the more sterner tests Nelson could’ve been given in his return given his relentless forward pressure and kill-or-be-killed mentality.

Nelson isn’t anticipating the Muay Thai practitioner to deviate from his usual game plan, saying: “I’m expecting him to come out pretty wild and trying to finish this fight early.

“I think that will probably be his strategy. He probably wants to keep this standing and expects me to want to come in for a takedown.

“He’s a wild guy, he’s a fighter and he likes to have a scrap. And I think that will represent in what he’s going to try to do on Saturday.”

Weathering a storm has never been an issue for Nelson, who fully expects to do just that before bringing the fight down to his domain and finishing off ‘Cowboy’.

He said: “I can see a few different scenarios. But I think it will most likely end up on the ground at some point and I think that will be my finish. Whether it be a strike to get down to the ground or a takedown, we’ll see. But most fights go the ground at some point.”

Although he was left frustrated by his prolonged time on the sidelines, Nelson did have the opportunity to spend more time with his family and his four-year-old son.

But ‘Gunni’ is hoping for a far busier 2019 so he can restart his ascent up the welterweight rankings.

“Ideally, I want to be a lot more active in 2019. I really feel that I’ve missed some time out,” he said. “So to get a good few fights in 2019 would be ideal.”

Nelson has never been one to overlook his opponents but is hoping to find himself on the cusp of a title shot this time next year.

“I usually take it one fight at a time, but I definitely want to keep busy next year,” the 30-year-old said. “Just keep climbing and we’ll see. Hopefully, we’ll get close to a title shot next year.”

Watch UFC 231: Holloway vs Ortega live on BT Sport 3 from 1am, with the prelims exclusively live on UFC FIGHT PASS from 11.15pm.