For as long as she could remember, Gillian Robertson worked with or around animals. She worked for the Humane Society and did volunteer work for other animal welfare organizations.
She describes herself as “not that outgoing, sort of socially awkward,” and said she was most comfortable around animals. When she was 18 and about to head out into the world, she felt she needed to do something about that.
“All I did my entire childhood was volunteer with animals,” she said. “I worked at the Humane Society as my first job and I never really had to deal with people. My whole life, I’d just spent a lot of time with animals. When I turned 18, I decided to start working at Chili’s. I knew I needed to put myself out there and get better at talking to people because I knew I’d need it for my career.”
She was a waitress for six months before she had to quit because she was chosen to appear on Season 26 of the UFC’s reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Robertson loves fighting, and has a significant fight in the women’s strawweight division when she meets heavily hyped prospect Maycee Barber at UFC Boston on Friday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Waitressing, though, isn’t so high on the list, so much so that given a choice between taking dinner orders and a punch in the face, she’d take the punch in the face any day.
“There are some days in my camp where it gets really, really hard, and I end up leaving the gym crying,” she said. “Any of those days is better than any day I had to walk into Chili’s. It’s just everything about it: people are so rude, you’re on your feet all day and you make limited money. It’s a job to struggle, and I feel it’s a really hard job. ... It kills you. But I’m glad I don’t have to do that any more and I’d take fighting any day over that.”
Fortunately for her, she’s proven to be adept at fighting. She didn’t have much experience on TUF when she showed up in the house, and she lost her first bout, getting knocked out by Barb Honchak.
That made it difficult because she had nothing to do the rest of the time and had to sit around for a month with nothing to occupy her and no fight to look forward to in the end.
She’s 4-1 in the UFC and coming off an impressive win over Sarah Frota at UFC 240 in July. Her only loss was when she submitted to an arm bar from Mayra Bueno Silva on Sept. 22, 2018, in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in a fight in which she admits she underestimated her opponent.
“She hadn’t fought anyone and her five wins were over girls who were absolutely trash,” Robertson said of Bueno Silva. “When I was watching her fights, I said, ‘OK, she hasn’t fought anyone like me. She’s not going to be ready for this.’ And when I went in there and she started to give me problems, it got me. ... My mind just wasn’t in the right place for that fight, and once it started offering me adversities, it just put me into a downhill spiral. My last fight, with Sarah Frota, I was thinking like that. I didn’t feel she had any real opponents before me, but I wanted to make sure I took it seriously.”
She did and the win led her directly to the fight with Barber, who is one of the most celebrated prospects in the UFC.
Robertson knows the significance of the fight, and she gets the feeling that Barber may be looking past her. Barber has several times spoken of fighting Paige VanZant, and said Wednesday she’d dominate strawweight champion Weili Zhang.
Robertson has noticed, and feels she’s going to shock Barber with her ground game.
“I think the perception going against me is that they have to just avoid the takedown, but it’s not that easy to do that when you get in there with me. No matter what, I’m going to drag you into my world,” she said. “Maycee has that big hype train going on, but I kind of feel like if I go out and perform the way I know I can, some of that will shift to me. That’s why I can’t wait for this fight.”
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