For one, Pimblett (19-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC) has sky-high popularity just a few fights into his UFC tenure, whereas Gordon (19-5 MMA, 7-4 UFC) has quietly ground out 11 UFC fights. UFC 282 will mark No. 12.
Countries of origin factor heavily into the equation, Gordon told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a pre-fight news conference Wednesday.
“(It’s) because I’m from America,” Gordon said. “He’s from Liverpool and he has a whole city behind him. The Americans are Americans. They like to tear down their athletes. There are so many of us. So who are they going to get behind? You see guys come from different countries. Look at Conor. The guy had a whole country behind him. Khabib, he’s got Russia behind him. ‘Oh, you’re from New York? Go F yourself.’”
Differences exist, but the similarities shine brighter to Gordon. For years, Gordon has used his growing platform to highlight his battles with drug addiction and mental health.
In July, Pimblett echoed a similar message when he gave what is widely regarded as one of the most powerful and impactful post-fight speeches ever, following his friend’s suicide.
Pimblett recently launched a charity – something Gordon proposed in October around the time of their UFC 282 fight booking.
“I had said that for that reason, maybe we could do that together,” Gordon said. “Nothing came of it. But that doesn’t mean something can’t happen in the future. I think that even pre-UFC, I remember hearing him on The MMA Hour… that he dealt with mental health issues and stuff like that. That’s when I started liking him. With the support that we both have and the people we have around us, that we could do something and why not, right? And we can entertain people in the process.”
Over the past decade, through the eras of Conor McGregor and beyond, negativity and trash talk has fueled the business in the fight game. Perhaps in a swim against the tide, Gordon thinks he and Pimblett can capture the attention of the masses through positivity and assistance.
“I see guys all the time saying certain things to each other, using certain words, being tough guys,” Gordon said. “Like, if you were really a criminal, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be out there extorting people and selling drugs and killing people. I hear people call each other certain words and it’s like where I’ve been and where I’m from, those words, those aren’t fist-fighting words. Those are, ‘I’m going to stab you in your back when you’re not watching,’ words. You can tell certain people haven’t been to jail. Some of our superstars, they’ve never been to jail. They haven’t shared a cell with someone else that they don’t know who comes from a terrible place.”
In addition to his openness and spread of awareness, Gordon helps out at a center for addiction treatment. He hopes to someday open a center of his own and would like to see other pro athletes follow suit for the general betterment of society.
“If Lebron James was talking about mental health, it’d get a lot of listeners,” Gordon said. “If Conor McGregor was talking about mental health instead of flexing in the mirror, he would get a lot of listeners, right? … It’s super hard nowadays. A lot of things are changing with insurance companies and self-pay for treatment centers are really expensive. But that’s something I’d definitely like to do and other things as well.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 282.