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EXCLUSIVE: Gerald Meerschaert talks career year in 2021, goal to pass Maia for second all-time in UFC submissions

gerald meerschaert

Oct 12, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Gerald Meerschaert (blue glove) prior to the fight against Eryk Anders (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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As veteran UFC middleweight Gerald Meerschaert reflects on the last 12 months, outside of challenging for the division crown in the next few years, 2021 will be a hard year to top.

"GM3" has always been an active competitor during his nearly five-year run in the UFC. Rarely has he fought less than three times in a year, but developing momentum has always been difficult. He entered last year having split his 12 previous fights in the Octagon and on the heels of back-to-back first-round knockout losses. He was at a career crossroads with his standing in the promotion at low.

It's why he waited seven months before he returned to action in April, so he could let his brain heal, recalibrate his skillset, and return to the Octagon with a renewed focus in 2021. It was one of the best decisions in what has been a notable career.

Gerald Meerschaert on consecutive KO losses to end 2020: 'It was pretty much a worst-case scenario'

gerald meerschaert

Mar 30, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Gerald Meerschaert (blue gloves) looks on between rounds in his fight against Kevin Holland (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Wells Fargo Arena. Holland won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

"I had two not great showings, and three [losses in] four is not a great look either. Especially, since it wasn't competitive fights where even if you lose you get a little bit of momentum. It was pretty much a worst-case scenario," Meerschaert told MixedMartialArts.com with a laugh. "So I took the appropriate time off, made sure my brain was good because I didn't want to jump back into another fight just because everyone's like, 'you've got to get rid of the loss. Gotta shake it off.' Once you get knocked out like that, if you rush it and never fully let yourself recover, you might never get your chin back.

"Everybody's chin has a shelf life, first of all. And second of all, if you want to be in this for the long haul -- obviously I have more than two losses, so my road to the title is still gonna be longer than most guys even though I've been in the UFC for a little bit -- you've gotta think about longevity. Outside all that, I want to be able to tie my shoes and play with my kids when I'm older. I let my brain heal, got my body right -- this was the first time in a long, long time that I've taken a break from MMA training, and I think it paid off."

Meerschaert's (34-14) results in 2021 speak for themselves. Three fights, three wins, and three submissions. It's the longest win streak of his Octagon tenure and he became the man with the most submission finishes in UFC middleweight history. That doesn't mean it was easy and stress-free.

The native of Wisconsin admits at the start of the year he was well aware of how important it was to right his career ship. And even when he scored a win versus Bartosz Fabiński in April, he knew he could not stop there if he truly wanted to achieve the goal of every UFC fighter, and compete for a championship.

Meerschaert on three-fight win streak in 2021: 'If I want to get to the belt someday, I should be able to put together three in a row, at least'

"It was stressful but I seem to put myself in this position a lot of times. Where I'll feel like it's a make-or-break fight to keep my spot in the company. So for better or worse I'm kind of used to it at that point. And after the first win, I knew I had a tough test in that second fight of the year [against Makhmud Muradov href="https://www.mixedmartialarts.com/fighter/Makhmud-Muradov:2C3AF062A7D6A377/" target="" class="tpd-prodfile-search"]. I just had a singular focus where I was like, everything else doesn't matter. I just gotta worry about this fight and getting to be the best I could possibly be," said Meerschaert.

"And this third one [versus Dustin Stoltzfus href="https://www.mixedmartialarts.com/fighter/Dustin-Stoltzfus:44573468CFCFDD3F/" target="" class="tpd-prodfile-search"], outside of not feeling physically my best, I knew mentally no matter what happens I gotta keep this going. I never had a three-fight win streak in the UFC," he continued. "And that kind of bothered me. Man, I've been in here for a while. .. If I want to get to the belt someday, I should be able to put together three in a row, at least."

Yet, not only did winning three straight make 2021 better than the rest for Meerschaert, but the year included the birth of his first child -- his son Bronx -- a victory on his birthday, a new contract, and more.

"This will definitely be one of the better [years]. I won all three of my fights. The first two I got a bonus on. The third one was on a new, much better contract. My kid was born, I got to have his first Christmas with him. I fought on my birthday at the UFC APEX, and my wife even came out to surprise me at the fight. So that's gonna be a hard year to top," he said.

GM3 has his eyes set on stacking more subs on his UFC middleweight record and chasing Demian Maia for second all-time

Of course, the end game is to work his way towards a title opportunity and become the UFC middleweight champion of the world. But Meerschaert is a realist and understands he has other options to build a long-lasting legacy in the MMA world leader. He already is the top dog when it comes to all-time submissions at 185-pounds. Although catching lightweight champion Charles Oliveira -- as he adds to his record 15 submission finishes -- may be difficult, Meerschaert is fine trying to next usurp the spot from the man that currently resides second all-time: Demian Maia.

"At least numbers-wise, the [middleweight record] was five. I've got eight [submissions] now. I think I'm tied overall for fourth or fifth. So I've got eight overall [in the UFC]. An I know total, Maia has 11. So when I saw that, I know I'm not necessarily fighting for records but it would be a cool thing to say [to be second all-time," says Meerschaert. "He's only got 11. Three is not that far off. It's pretty doable. Oliveira's got 15. He'll probably get more so it's gonna take a little bit to catch up to him but I can at least get three, so that's something I would like to accomplish in the near future."

Do you think Meerschaert will eventually forever etch his name in UFC history with the second most subs all-time?