Gian Villante explains UFC on ESPN 12 move to heavyweight, where he hopes to stay

UFC on ESPN 12 marks a first for Gian Villante.

Although he’s competed under the promotional banner 15 times before, Saturday will be the first time Villante (17-11 MMA, 7-8 UFC) has fought in the UFC heavyweight division.

The move is twofold, Villante explained to MMA Junkie during a virtual pre-fight media day held Thursday.

For starters, inability to train properly during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to weight gain, making the decision easy for Villante. However, Villante has always been interested in dipping his toes in the heavyweight waters.

“Especially with the whole quarantine going on and New York being a little bit of a crazy place to train, getting down to 205 would’ve been some adventure,” Villante laughed. “It just happened to work out. The timing was kind of perfect to move my way up. That’s pretty much why. I do think I was always going to do it. It was just a matter of when.”

Despite mostly competing at light heavyweight throughout his career, Villante said he thinks his style will suit him better at heavyweight. Whether the move to the UFC’s biggest weight class will be permanent – that remains to be seen.

“I’m not really sure (if I’ll stay),” Villante said. “I’m a pretty big guy. I walk around pretty heavy, so it’d be interesting to get back down. But if I offered a fight at 205 pounds, I wouldn’t necessarily decline it. We’ll just see what they want to do. It’s really up to (matchmaker) Mick Maynard and stuff. They’re smart guys and know more about this than I do. I think heavyweight is where I’d like to be in my future.”

Villante admits a win over Maurice Greene (8-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC) won’t likely land him in the UFC rankings next week. However, he thinks it’ll put him on the bubble, making it easy for him to punch his ticket the following outing.

“I don’t think it’ll put me ranked,” Villante said. “I know Maurice is probably a top 20 guy. I’d probably be somewhere right there, then maybe one more fight – fight someone ranked or something like that. I really don’t know how these rankings things work.”

UFC on ESPN 12 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.

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