kelvin-gastelum-5.jpgLAS VEGAS – Uriah Hall doesn’t want to make excuses for his runner-up finish on “The Ultimate Fighter 17,” but the heavy favorite and runaway star of the reality series admits the mental aspect of the fight weighed on him heavily.

Hall used a series of highlight-reel finishes to advance to the 28-man middleweight tournament’s final, which co-headlined The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale on Saturday at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

But Hall (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) ultimately dropped a split decision to Kelvin Gastelum (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), one of his teammates on a squad coached by Chael Sonnen. While Hall took some criticism for his performance, which appeared unfocused at times, he said he was simply trying to shake off the nerves that come with fighting a friend.

“I was trying to have some fun, man,” he told ( after the fight. “A big part of it was it was it was kind of hard, too. I trained with the guy, and I like him. It was kind of that emotion I was trying to get rid of, so it was kind of weird.

“Going in the ring, I was like, ‘S—, here we go again.’ That side just kind of got the best of me, but there’s no excuse. Kelvin’s a great guy. He’s a tough kid. I think he’s going to go really far in this sport, and I’m happy for him.”

Most will certainly view it as a major setback for Hall, whom UFC President Dana White had compared to UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. The company boss told prior to the bout that no “TUF” cast member had ever been so feared or generated so much buzz during the reality show.

Gastelum, though, at least temporarily derailed Hall’s hype train.

Even after his surprise win, Gastelum seemed in disbelief.

“Obviously I’m excited,” he said. “I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in. It’s just very emotional.”

But like Hall, Gastelum said their personal relationship did affect the fight. However, he wasn’t about to spoil an unexpected opportunity. Even after he defeated Kito Andrews in an elimination-round bout, Gastelum prompted few believers. He was the final draft pick among the 14 cast members, and against Hall, he was a nearly 3-to-1 underdog.

So to actually advance to the tourney final, the Arizona-based wrestler was determined not to let Hall snatch away something that was within his grasp.

“During the show, he was a great friend, and we trained together a lot,” he said. “But my preparation for this fight, mentally, he’s trying to take something that I think I deserve and something that I earned here tonight, and that’s how I went into the fight.

“He’s trying to take something that I got, and I’m not going to let anybody take that away from me.”

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.

(Pictured: Kelvin Gastelum)

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