Jared Gordon (19-5, eight finishes) is days away from the biggest fight of his career, the main event against big-name, up-and-coming featherweight Paddy Pimblett (19-3, 15) on Saturday in Las- at UFC 282 in Vegas. The Astoria, Queens native recently spoke with The Post’s Scott Fontana ahead of his first pay-per-view fight for this week’s Post-Fight Interview Q&A session.
Q: You were one of the bantamweights who challenged Pimblett publicly, and it took a while, but you fought. How does it feel to find your way in this situation?
Answer: I was not, brother; she was. I fought his teammate Chris Fishgold at Fight Island [2 ½] years ago now. When he signed with the UFC, he called me before I called him. So be careful what you wish for. He wanted to bring it back to his team, I think that’s why he called me. And at the same time, he called a few more people. They should have asked him, who would you like to fight for your debut? He named like three or four young men; I was one of them. It makes sense now. We’ve been calling each other out for the last few fights, the last couple of months or whatever.
Q: UFC president Dana White said it looked like a fight would happen in the spring, and then it hasn’t happened until now. What was going through your head as the situation unfolded?
Answer: I don’t know [laughs]. I was like, Oh, great. And then it didn’t happen; I’m like: Okay, whatever. So it didn’t really matter to me. But here we are. I think it was actually better because there’s more of a story. Now he has shown himself, which has brought us to a higher level. I know I wouldn’t be where we are [are] on a card that doesn’t have his name on it, which is fine because my salary won’t change anyway. I’d almost rather fight early and get the f—k out of there and watch the fights and be with my friends.
Q: So you’re not excited to be in the main event of a pay-per-view?
A: I mean, I am. Great, yes. But I always knew I would get to that point, one way or another. And nothing has changed. I don’t get paid more, I don’t get anything else. I’ve had other opportunities, sponsorships and things like that, but nothing dramatic.
Q: One of the things that is important to you is getting your message about mental health and addiction out there, and having a bigger platform to get your message out there should help. That’s positive, right?
A: The biggest thing about it is that we get a lot of attention on ourselves, so it’s generally better for me. Then once I defeat it, it will be even more powerful. I always knew I would get to this point and I deserved something like this. I didn’t know how or when it would happen. There were times when I didn’t know how or when it would happen. We are here. I just have to take a chance, and that’s the bottom line.
Q: You’re very vocal about your mission to help others struggling with addiction and mental health issues, and you’ve said that you and Pimblett hope to raise awareness through this game. Have you or your campers been in touch on how to do this in this case?
Answer: No. I don’t think he talks about it anymore.
Q: So he’s over it?
Answer: Yes. I still do my job. I always help people, but I haven’t heard anything from him. Again, I don’t have Instagram and Twitter on my phone, so I’m not staring at a king screen all day. So I don’t know what he’s doing or what’s going on. But I think so [after his last fight] indeed, it was the only time he spoke of it. Maybe it affected him at the time and he moved on, or maybe it’s just a big deal to him. Maybe not. Nothing came of it.
Q: You often post on social media encouraging people to reach out to them if they need someone to talk to about their problems. How often do strangers take you up on this offer?
A: Every day, almost. In fact, not a day goes by that I don’t talk to someone or someone contacts me. A time when I don’t talk to anyone [when] I’m not looking at it, it’s been a lot lately because staring at my phone makes my brain rot. Like I said, I don’t have Twitter or Instagram on my phone. I have a laptop, I log in and look at my private messages, and that’s it. I’m not trying to convert. But yes, every day. Especially when I post, I get flooded. But it’s hard, man. It’s hard to balance work and what I want to do with just scrolling [laughs].
Q: Michael Bisping just talked about Pimblett underestimating you. Do you understand this too?
Answer: I don’t know. Like I said, I’m not watching. I don’t look and I don’t watch. He acts like he has everyone beat. And good, because you’re playing the wrong sport if you don’t think you’re going to win. I think I’ll kick his ass too. I think it’s all bull – but her obesity. His weight will probably be under control sooner than he shows. Michael Bisping, I love the guy. I think he’s cool, but it’s just clickbait headlines, man. I don’t believe anything I see on the internet, anything someone sends me, or anything I hear. All bulls – t. I know exactly what they are doing. And I don’t think he underestimates me at all. I don’t belittle him at all.
Q: I know you see this fight going well tactically. Can you elaborate on your plan without giving too much away?
A: I think the kind of fighter he is, the kind of fighter I am, that affects my game more. He’s unpredictable, he’s wild, and he goes for it. From what we’ve seen in his fights, he’s a great fight for me stylistically. I know I’m the best wrestler. I don’t shake guys because that’s not my game. I want to grab you and punch you in the face. Then if you give me your neck, I’ll take it. I think I’m cleaner on the legs; I know I’m cleaner on my feet. He just goes wild. I’m not saying it’s not effective; proved to be effective. I think I’m better all around. He is behind a lot. It’s my bread and butter at the top.
Q: You’re a Queens guy now living in Florida. Where’s the best pizza in town? What will you do when you visit?
Answer: Dude, there’s really good pizza. … I’m from Astoria, Queens. Alba’s Pizza is right down the block. They are just a mom and pop shop; been there forever. And so good Dani’s in Forest Hills [House of] Pizza. They stayed there forever. Dude, there’s some really good pizza.
Q: Do you remember your first experience watching MMA?
Answer: I was at my friend Saul’s house [in] Long Island. I was 7 years old. We fell in love with WWF, WCW at that time. And that’s all we did. We fought, threw each other off the table and bed in our room. My friend Saul’s brother would make us fight or wrestle. And one day I went there and he said, “You guys have to see this. It’s called the UFC.” It was Royce Gracie and others. [Gerard Gordeau]. … This is the first battle I have ever seen. And I remember thinking to myself [laughs], it can’t be a real king, my friend. This is fake. At the moment I was thinking [pro] the struggle is real. I would argue with you to the end: “It’s true! This is true!” And then when I watched the UFC, I thought it must be fake. They can’t do that on TV. This is illegal. But then I remember thinking, this is what I want to do when I grow up.
Q: Normal weight between fights?
A: I’m not over 180, 182, maybe 183 at my heaviest. But I’ve been 70 for a few weeks, maybe two months. I was in Dubai with Belal [Muhammad]eight [or] nine weeks ago, and I was in the 70s.
Q: Normal weight on fight night?
A: I usually go in there at my heaviest 73, 74. I would have been bigger because I went in there bigger, but I felt like a st. I feel better when I’m thinner and smaller.
Q: I hear this from a lot of guys.
A: I just try better. My cardio, I’m not that lethargic. When I was fighting at 45, I would be in the cage at 74, 73, but I cut so much, I blew up again. It’s nothing else in my life [laughs].
Q: Favorite post-fight meal?
A: Pizza is definitely one of them. I always love a good cheeseburger, man or steak. There’s nothing quite like a New York or New Jersey lunchtime burger. Nothing beats a cheeseburger, french fries, chocolate milkshake at Greek food.
Q: What is the best technique in combat sports?
A: I like kimura.