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UFC 244: Darren Till on fatherhood, moving up in weight, and dealing with defeat

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Till: Welterweight wasn't healthy for me (1:45)

Darren Till reveals how he is more comfortable at middleweight ahead of his fight with Kelvin Gastelum. Order UFC 244 here https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv. (1:45)

Ahead of Darren Till's UFC 244 co-main event against Kelvin Gastelum in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 2, the Liverpudlian spoke to ESPN's Alexis Nunes.

What have you learned in fatherhood?

They cost a lot! [My daughter] is nearly 1 and she's just started to walk and she's nearly speaking. And she understands everything -- she understands... not that me and my girlfriend are her parents, but we're her protectors. So we're in that phase now where you don't really want them to grow up, you want them to stay that way and I remember with my first one as well, it was the same feeling. When I was a kid, I was like: 'I'll probably never have kids.' But now I can just see myself with like three kids and a nice house and family time. I really enjoy it. I enjoy picturing what it's going to be like in the next few years, but for now it's expensive!

What was the process behind deciding you wanted to finally move up to middleweight?

It was in my mind for a long time. People don't see what goes on behind the scenes when I am cutting weight. They don't see it's a 24-hour thing. I was cutting weight to welterweight and it just got to the point where it had become a proper burden on my life and I wasn't happy with what I was doing anymore.

I know it's cliche, but you've got to love what you do with your job. And I don't really consider this a job, this is not a job, but it just got to the point where I didn't really want to be in the gym and there was a lot of negativity inside of me -- not with fighting and training, I love that, but just that [weight-cutting] part. It never became just a little part that I could ignore, it became day-in, day-out; six days out [from a fight] I want to go and see my friends, have a bit of food, but no I can't, because I've got to stay in.

And I know that is a part [of fighting], but I just got to the point where I felt I was too big, and I was really putting myself under strain and it wasn't healthy for me. Two weeks out [from the Kelvin Gastelum fight] now, I'm not even thinking about the fight or cutting weight, I'm just thinking about training and how much I love it and how much I love this. So I didn't take too much convincing, and then obviously with an opponent like Gastelum, I was like: 'Oh my God.' What a challenge for me, to go in there and prove I'm one of the best and come out with the win. And how many people I'm going to shut the mouths of, and how many people turned their backs on me. So I feel like I've made the right choice, I hope I have!

You'll be fighting Gastelum in Madison Square Garden. It doesn't get much bigger than that for anyone. Are you enjoying things more now and finally getting to let everything sink in?

Yeah, I feel like I am more, because I'm not sat here and thinking about macros or food or how hungry I am. I'm looking forward to training. I don't want to go in there and think about the fight, I just want to go in there and train and enjoy it and learn and get better. That's what I want to do, ultimately. I don't think you ever really take it in, though. I analyse a lot of fighters once they've retired and through social media as well now, and you see how they are after they retire; you can see inside them that they're hurting, because they just want this or that moment to replay again.

So I'm the same, I'm a criminal in terms of not really taking all this in, that I'm co-main-eventing MSG, where Muhammad Ali laid his feet. I think in years to come I'll be the same as all these [retired] fighters. That's why they do comebacks, a lot of them. So right now I think it's just about being happy -- if I'm not happy, it's not going well.

What's been the biggest change you've had to make with your training regiment and diet-wise? Because I know you'll say it's just like having two cheeseburgers instead of one at Five Guys, but I don't think [coach] Colin [Heron] would let you do that!

Every now and again! It's a Friday, so definitely tonight! I always speak to Colin about this, and it's funny, because I always had this mentality as a kid that my heroes, like Mike Tyson, they got nutritionists, they got all the types of recovery, massages every day, chefs, they got it all. I don't really like that approach. Me and my girlfriend never used to cook, we used to order in a lot and stuff like that, and the past few months I've just had her cooking my food. I've said: 'Listen, I'm very particular, if you do me the same meal every night, but I like it, you don't need to change it!' As long as it's got everything in that I need, I'm happy.

So literally for the last few months she's been making me this stir-fry, and she puts like avocado, egg, rice, chicken, protein in -- all the stuff I need -- and a little bit of salt to make it nice. And I've been having that like twice a day. She'll make me little lunchboxes to go to the gym and that, and I'll tell you, it's really just as simple as that. And it costs nothing out of Tesco! She cooks it in like 10 minutes. Fighters are just making it seem so [hard]. Go home and cook for yourself or get your girl or mum to cook for you!

Darren Till, powered by stir-fry! How do you think this transition in weight is going to help you grow as a fighter?

I think right now I'm probably just where I should be naturally. You know, I'm 6-foot-1, over 90 kilograms, I've got big legs. I'm a big-boned guy, obviously my nickname's 'The Gorilla'. I think this is me naturally. All these guys now just seem to be moving up in weight. Yeah, you're cutting 5 or 10 kilograms, that's no problem -- I know it sounds a lot to you guys, but it's not a problem. It's those 15-kilogram cuts and those massive cuts. Like I know Khabib [Nurmagomedov] has a massive weight cut, and I've seen he's huge. I can see him moving up soon.

And it's different from boxing, because in the UFC the weight classes are very far apart. So if you're a 70-kg fighter and you go up to welterweight, you're going up 7 kilos. Going up to middleweight is another 7, it's such a big jump and that's what's scared a lot of fighters, thinking: 'These guys are going to be bigger than me.' But in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it really matters. I think if we all fight at our natural weight, we're going to be better fighters for it, I really do.

Moving onto the Gastelum fight now -- when that was announced, some jaws dropped. Some people thought: 'Darren likes the tough road, why would you do this? Is this going to be a third career loss, the third in a row?' But you don't see it like that, do you? You're relishing the challenge?

Yeah, if I go on now and lose and lose, that's four losses. If I lose again, that's five. Obviously then I would sit back and be like: 'OK, right now I'm not going to be the greatest fighter, I'm not the best fighter, what do I need to do?' But right now inside of me as I sit here, I know I've got the tools to be the best fighter in the world and beat guys like Kelvin Gastelum and the champions. So it all depends on what I do when I go in there. I don't think there is an 'easy' road in the UFC, but as you say, I could have taken an easier route instead of facing Kelvin, who's just fought against Israel Adesanya, who's now the [middleweight] champion. Israel knocked Robert Whittaker out, Kelvin nearly beat Israel, this is the hardest fight, but I just don't see it as anything. I see it as: 'This guy is so good, I know how good I am, why not fight?'

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1:39

Till tips Diaz to beat Masvidal

Darren Till thinks Nate Diaz might just grind out a win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 244. Order UFC 244 here: https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

I just can't get my head around why a lot of people are like: 'You're so brave.' No, I'm a fighter, that's what we do. I'll tell you the truth, behind the scenes with a lot of fighters, there's a lot that goes on. With me, what you see is what you get. There's none of this 'shall we pick this fight or that fight?' I go to Colin and I say: 'I'll fight him.' He'll say: 'Well, Darren, he's--' ... 'I'll fight him.' There's no picking routes, or thinking 'this is easy' or 'could you get more money?' F--- that s---. I want to fight the best.

What edge do you think you have over Kelvin?

I think at a long distance I'm better than Kelvin. I think if Kelvin gets inside, he's one of them tough, chubby Mexicans and we've seen it with [heavyweight boxing champion] Andy Ruiz against Anthony Joshua. They know how to fight! He's a beast. I'm a beast.

No trash talk for him?

I just think, if you are going to trash talk, make sure you do it in a more intelligent way. It was very funny, Ben Askren was saying a lot about how immature I am, but that's the image I give off, because I don't really care if you think I'm intelligent or not. I know I am! Whatever you think, I can't really change your opinion on me, so why would I stress over it? I'm not going to get into this war of words over who's better, me or Kelvin. I know where he's good and I will say it out loud to the camera, and I know where I'm good. A lot of fighters don't want to say they could lose, but it's going on in their head. Whatever's going on up in my head, I'll just tell you. Why would I not?

After your last two fights -- your first two losses in fighting since you were 16 -- which you did say came as a bit of a shock, what did you learn about yourself?

I'm just secure, because I'm not saying anything here to make people happy. Either you like me or you don't. It's your opinion. Obviously a lot of comments you get off people do hurt sometimes. You think: 'Why did that guy say that?' Especially with the rise I've had -- I've fought all over the world all my life, even when I was a kid I tried to jet off here and there and my mum tried to stop me a lot, but I've always done it. Anywhere I went I was always just me, and ready to fight. And there just wasn't a guy who could beat me, there really wasn't. And obviously you gain a lot of confidence with that, and I was King Kong for a while, and then to lose twice... But I'm so secure, because I'm intelligent enough to know that losses are a part of this grueling game we're in.

This is not like a sport. A boxer lost his life a few days ago. Do not call this a sport. The fight business is the hurt business. And obviously every sport is dangerous in its own way, but we're going in there to get punched in the head, elbowed, kicked, broken bones. We live with a lot of this after fighting. I've said a lot that I don't really care about the money, but after fighting, money is important, because you need to be set up, like these boxers who are all robbing a living, getting tens of millions. Us fighters in the UFC are getting paid, but we need to be getting the same as the boxers.

You said that you still have some unfinished business at welterweight. What's it going to take for you to go back and take care of that?

First I want to get past this beast that is Kelvin Gastelum. I can't really think about anything else at the moment, but I want to let this year play out.

So you don't have a kind of five-year plan?

No, I just have this-year plan. I want to see what goes on. Win or lose, I just want to see what happens. If then, two fights down the line, I'm on a win streak and the UFC says, 'Darren, you know what, go back down and challenge the champion at welterweight,' OK, I'll do that. But then just don't come and interview me, because I'll be on my macros and I won't be in no mood!