ABU DHABI – UFC middleweight Kelvin Gastelum is rejuvenated and ready to climb back into title contention.

Gastelum will look to avoid a three-fight losing streak when he takes on Jack Hermansson this Saturday in the UFC on ESPN+ 30 co-main event at Yas Island.

Gastelum (16-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC) has dropped two in a row for the first time in his career. After failing to capture the interim middleweight title in a “Fight of the Year” battle against Israel Adesanya in April 2019, Gastelum lost a lackluster decision to Darren Till last November at UFC 244, finding himself in unfamiliar territory.

But after some time off, Gastelum has put the past behind him and is ready to remind everyone that he is still a player at 185 pounds.

“I’m actually in a really good place mentally and physically, which really wasn’t the case for my last two fights,” Gastelum told MMA Junkie and other reporters Thursday. “I’m not putting any excuses. There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes for a lot of fighters, but that’s in the past. … So now I’m in a good place mentally, physically. Man, I feel really good coming into this fight.”

He continued, “It was just some personal stuff going on behind the scenes in my life, and we eliminated that aspect, and I feel like a resurgence in me, and I really enjoyed the process for this camp, which really hasn’t been the case in the past. And waking up and training and dieting and losing the weight – I enjoyed every single day of this process, and so I’m in a good place mentally, physically. I’m ready to go.”

Things haven’t gone according to plan for Gastelum since moving up to middleweight, but he came very close. He scored back-to-back wins over Michael Bisping and Ronaldo Souza, which earned him a title shot against then middleweight champ Robert Whittaker in February 2019.

Gastelum flew halfway across the world to challenge for the title in enemy territory, but just hours before the fight, Whittaker was forced to pull out due to emergency hernia surgery. Gastleum attended the event as a spectator in the stands.

That was followed by another heartbreak, when he was narrowly edged by Adesanya in a thrilling battle at UFC 236, falling short in his title pursuit. So when he suffered a decision loss to Till right after, it set back Gastelum and took a toll mentally.

“Last year I was supposed to fight in February for the title, and in my head I was going to be a world champion, and that didn’t happen,” Gastelum said. “Fought in April and lost, fought in November and lost, so yeah, I think I did go through a little bit of depression. I gained like 30 pounds and had an injury, had to recover from that. I had to battle some demons in my off time. And you know what? I battled them. I conquered them, and here I am ready to go.”

He gets a big opportunity in Hermansson (20-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC), who has won four of his last five and is also vying to crack the top of the 185-pound rankings.

“Jack’s one of those guys I’ve had my eye on because he’s a skilled guy, he’s a highly ranked guy, and I think it’s perfect for me to start climbing up the ranks again,” Gastelum said.

“I gotta make a statement. I’m looking for self-validation in this fight. After losing two in a row, I’ve never in my life had that happen, and I’m just at this point looking for self-validation, and I’m kind of looking to separate myself from the pack at this point.”