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Dublin: 7°C Tuesday 9 March 2021

'He’s not the type that fully enjoys that kind of attention – like Conor McGregor'

The support of the home crowd could be a hindrance to Gunnar Nelson, says opponent Dong Hyun Kim.

Gunnar Nelson
Gunnar Nelson
Image: INPHO/Rodrigo Romos

GUNNAR NELSON’S NEXT opponent has questioned whether the backing of the Irish crowd will be an advantage to the Icelandic welterweight.

Nelson (15-2-1), an extremely popular fighter among fans in Ireland thanks to his association with Dublin’s Straight Blast Gym, will be the home favourite when he faces Dong Hyun Kim in the main event at UFC Fight Night 99 in Belfast on 19 November.

It will be the second time Nelson has headlined a UFC card, but he’ll be hoping for a different outcome to his split-decision defeat to Rick Story in Stockholm in October 2014.

Kim won’t have what’s expected to be a sold-out SSE Arena on his side in eight weeks’ time, but he doesn’t necessarily feel that will be an advantage to his opponent either. According to the South Korean, Nelson — who’s a much more placid character than his team-mate Conor McGregor — may not be quite as comfortable in the spotlight.

“That kind of loud and passionate atmosphere can be both an advantage and a weakness. There’s enormous pressure in the fight so I personally prefer to fight on the enemy’s turf,” Kim (21-3-1-1) told The42.

“I don’t know exactly how Gunnar is, but my feeling is that he’s not the type that fully enjoys that kind of an attention — like Conor McGregor. I’ll probably walk in to the octagon with a lot of jeers, but if I put up a good fight, the audience will be clapping as I walk out.”

Brazil UFC MMA Dong Hyun Kim Source: AP/Press Association Images

Kim’s clash with Nelson will be his first fight in a year. The 34-year-old, who withdrew from a scheduled bout against Neil Magny at UFC 202 due to injury, hasn’t competed since a first-round TKO of Dominic Waters in November 2015.

His three losses in 16 UFC outings have all come against top-tier opposition in the shape of reigning welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, former title challenger Carlos Condit and likely-future challenger Demian Maia. Kim currently sits in 10th spot in the 170lbs rankings, two places ahead of Nelson.

Widely regarded as one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the UFC, Nelson’s grappling prowess is usually his key to victory. However, Kim insists he’s not concerned about his opponent’s ability on the ground.

“He’s strong, but he’ll get to know why fighters give up when they fight me,” he said. “My aim is not to nullify his grappling, it’s to nullify his mentality. This fight will play out exactly the opposite of how Gunnar wants it to be.”

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Paul Dollery

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