LONDON – Gunnar Nelson hasn’t seen action inside the octagon since September 2019, but he doesn’t feel or expect any signs of rust going into UFC Fight Night 204.

After being absent from the sport for nearly 2.5 years, Nelson’s (17-5-1 MMA, 8-5 UFC) comeback fight is set for Saturday’s card at O2 Arena, which streams on ESPN+. He meets Takashi Sato (16-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC) in a welterweight bout.

“To be honest, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been away for too long,” Nelson told MMA Junkie on Thursday. “Now that I’m here, they’re all the same. It’s even more familiar than I thought it was going to be.”

Nelson, 33, came up short in his past two fights prior to the layoff, dropping decisions to Gilbert Burns and Leon Edwards. He’s wanted to fight in the time since then but said the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the UFC’s inability to host events in the United Kingdom or mainland Europe, made it difficult for the stars to align.

“It’s been a couple of times where I thought I was going to fight here in London,” Nelson said. “This card has been ‘scheduled’ a couple of times and canceled and stuff. There’s been a couple times where we were getting ready and we were ready and they were canceled. … It’s very good that it’s finally here, and hopefully nothing weird happens.”

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Nelson said his preparation for UFC Fight Night 204 was split between traveling to Dublin to train at SBG Ireland, as well as stay at home in Iceland and work with specific training partners.

Originally, Nelson was supposed to fight Claudio Silva on the card, but that matchup fell apart on relatively short notice. Sato ultimately stepped up to save the day, and Nelson said he’s quite grateful the UFC found a suitable replacement.

“The change of opponent is fine,” Nelson said. I’m just happy when Claudio pulled, it was a little worrying, but I just wanted to get in there and fight. When they said Takashi Sato was going to jump in, I was very happy.”

Not having won a fight since December 2018, Nelson said he’s not thinking beyond getting the job done at UFC Fight Night 204. He’s not interested in discussing future matchups or opponents, because right now Sato is all that’s on his mind.

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