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Canada's Robertson sees a win at UFC 303 moving her closer to a title shot

Gillian Robertson UFC Gillian Robertson - The Canadian Press

Coming off a big win on home soil at UFC 297 in Toronto in January, Canadian Gillian (The Savage) Robertson looks to make the most of another big stage Saturday.

Robertson, ranked 15th among strawweight contenders, takes on No. 14 Michelle (The Karate Hottie) Waterson-Gomez on the undercard of UFC 303 in Las Vegas.

"I feel like it's the biggest opportunity I've ever had," Robertson said. "The biggest opponent I've ever had."

It also looked like the biggest card of her career, with Irish star Conor McGregor making his comeback against Michael Chandler in the main event at T-Mobile Arena. The former featherweight and lightweight champion has not fought since breaking his leg in a loss to Dustin (The Diamond) Poirier in July 2021 at UFC 264.

McGregor, however, has been sidelined by a broken toe.

Brazil's Alex Pereira is now defending his light-heavyweight title against former champion Jiri Procházka of the Czech Republic in the marquee bout.

Two other Canadians are on Saturday's undercard.

Marc-Andre (Powerbar) Barriault takes on American middleweight Joe (Bodybagz) Pyfer and featherweight Charles (Air) Jourdain faces Brazil's Jean (Lord) Silva.

The 29-year-old Robertson (13-8-0 including 10-6-0 in the UFC.) has won three of her last four outings, stopping Brazil's Polyana Viana most recently. Her first outing in Canada since a victory at UFC 240 in Edmonton in July 2019 proved memorable.

"Even just to walk out, I kind of had to reel myself back a little bit," said Robertson. "Just because the crowd was so intense. There was so much energy there. "

The Scotiabank Arena audience included her grandfather, who lives in St. Catharines, Ont., and her parents, who came up from Florida.

"He definitely thought it was amazing. Just to see me in an arena and things like that were awesome for him … My grandma was too nervous to go (to the fights) herself."

The 38-year-old Waterson-Gomez (18-12-0 including 6-8-0 in the UFC) is a former Invicta FC atom weight champion who has lost her last four fights albeit against ranked opposition. Waterson-Gomez has fought — and lost to — the likes of Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas,Carla Esparza andAmanda Lemos, all of whom have either held a UFC title or fought for one.

"She's just a huge vet(eran). Such a big name for me," said Robertson. "I really think this is just the beginning of the road to my title shot. Maybe two or three more (wins) and I'll be standing across the cage from the champion (currently China's Zhang Weili)."

Robertson was seven when her family left Niagara Falls for Florida so her mother could take a nursing job. Robertson is now based out of Miami, where she trains at the Goats Shed gym.

She got into combat sports “on a whim,” deciding to take a cardio kickboxing class. Her father was working for the humane society at the time and one of his co-workers was former UFC fighter Din Thomas.

That led her to Thomas’s gym at 16 and a coaching relationship that remains today. Robertson has since won a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Thomas.

Her nickname — The Savage — came after her first amateur fight. Thomas wrote an email to their fight team saying “She’s as quiet as a mouse but when she walks into the cage, she turns into a savage.”

Robertson is hard to miss with trademark red hair. She decided to dye it before her pro debut and has stuck with it.

While Robertson set records as a flyweight for most submission wins (six) and finishes (seven), the move down to strawweight has been productive. She is 2-1 at 115 pounds, although it comes at a cost.

The five-foot-five Robertson, who was between 137 and 140 pounds when she opened camp for this fight, diets for some three months before a fight to make weight. And in the weeks leading up to the bout, she makes "multiple" visits a week to the sauna to help the weight cut.

"It's definitely a bit of a struggle through the camp but I try to struggle through the camp so then the actual (weight) cut process isn't too hard."

By fight week, even spandex leggings that used to fit snugly are a little loose.

She believes her one loss at 115 pounds, by decision to Brazil's Tabatha (Baby Shark) Ricci in June 2023, came because she took the fight too soon "and my body wasn't quite ready to make the weight cut again."

The weight cut means she has a long wish list when it comes to eating after the fight.

"A little bit of everything with a side of a joint," she said with a grin, when asked what was on the menu after the Viana win.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2024