Gunnar Lúðvík Nelson (born 28 July 1988) is an Icelandic mixed martial artist currently competing in the Welterweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which was awarded by Renzo Gracie after impressive results at the 2009 IBJJF Pan-Ams and the 2009 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship. He is currently ranked #11 in the official UFC Welterweight rankings. Gunnar is a teammate of fellow UFC fighter and Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor, and is a member of Mjölnir gym in Iceland, and SBG Ireland.
Nelson was born in Akureyri in the north side of Iceland but has lived in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, almost all his life from early childhood. He played football and ice hockey in his childhood years. At the age of 13, he started training in Gōjū-ryū Karate and won the Icelandic Juvenile Kumite Championship title in 2003, and again in 2004 and 2005. He took home medals in every karate tournament he participated in during 2003 to 2005. In 2005, he was chosen Iceland's most promising up-and-coming karate talent of that year, when he was just 16. However, he gave up karate to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and grappling at age 17. Gunnar's father, Haraldur Dean Nelson (aka Halli Nelson), is of Anglo-American and Icelandic descent. He is also Gunnar's manager. Gunnar's mother, Guðrún Hulda Gunnarsdóttir Nelson, is Icelandic. Gunnar has one sibling, a sister named María Dögg Nelson born 1992 in Reykjavík.
Nelson began grappling in 2006, receiving his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) blue belt from Matt Thornton of Straight Blast Gym International. From the age of 17, he continued his tutelage under John Kavanagh primarily, one of Thornton's students. Nelson first met Kavanagh during one of his BJJ seminars at Mjolnir, and the SBG Ireland owner would remain his head coach until this day. By 2008, Nelson had already progressed far enough for Kavanagh to award him his brown belt, but with Kavanagh not being a black belt for more than six years at the time, he was unable to award Nelson his own black belt under IBJJF rules. Nelson subsequently spent a period at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York to earn his black belt and advance his game further. Shortly after his arrival, he had competed for their team in various competitions, winning a silver medal in the 2009 Mundials brown belt category. He also won gold at the 2009 Pan American Championship (Gi), along with gold and silver (open class) in the 2009 Pan American Championship (No-Gi). At the 2009 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, Nelson took 4th place in the absolute category where he defeated the much heavier and touted BJJ Black Belts Jeff Monson and David Avellan. Gracie had already seen enough, and awarded him his black belt after less than a year with his academy. In 2011, Nelson was again offered a place in the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship and had a good run (though not bringing home any medals), defeating the then present and twofold European Champion and multiple Finnish champion Marko Helen and the Brazilian and American champion and former World Champion Bruno Frazzato.
Today, Nelson is an instructor in his home club Mjolnir. He spends his time between there, SBG Ireland, Renzo Gracie Academy, and also SBG Mainline in Manchester where he trains with Karl Tanswell. Nelson uses his BJJ as his primary method of offence in MMA.
Nelson won five more fights in the 16 months following his debut, in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Denmark, before taking a break from the sport for almost two years. He returned at BAMMA 2: Roundhouses at the Roundhouse in February 2010 and defeated opponent Sam Elsdon via submission in the first round. He secured another first round victory in his next fight against Danny Mitchell at Cage Contender 6 in Manchester, England before returning to BAMMA later that year. His next appearance was at BAMMA 4: Reid vs. Watson in September 2010 where he faced previously unbeaten British prospect Eugene Fadiora and won by submission in the first round. In February 2012, Nelson returned to MMA with a first round armbar submission win over Ukrainian fighter Alexander Butenko at Cage Contender 12 in Dublin Ireland. In late 2012 Nelson signed a multi-fight agreement with the UFC.
Nelson was expected to make his promotional debut against Pascal Krauss on September 29, 2012 at UFC on Fuel TV: Struve vs. Miocic. However, Krauss was forced out of the bout with an injury (Rich Attonito was shortly linked to fighting Nelson but he had weight concerns and also pulled out) and Nelson was expected to face DaMarques Johnson at a catchweight bout of 175 lb, but his opponent could not make the required weight. The fight was contested at 183 lbs (Nelson weighed in 175 lbs). Nelson submitted Johnson via rear-naked choke at the 3:34 mark of the first round.
Nelson was expected to face Justin Edwards on February 16, 2013 at UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald. However, Edwards was forced to pull out of the bout citing an injury, and was replaced by returning veteran Jorge Santiago. Nelson won the fight by unanimous decision (29–28, 29–28, 30–27).
A year later Nelson returned to the UFC and faced Omari Akhmedov on March 8, 2014 at UFC Fight Night 37. Nelson won the fight via submission in the first round. The win also earned Nelson his first Performance of the Night bonus award.
Nelson was expected to face Ryan LaFlare on July 19, 2014 at UFC Fight Night 46. LaFlare suffered an injury and was replaced by Zak Cummings. Nelson won the fight via second round rear-naked choke. The victory secured Nelson his second Performance of the Night bonus award.
Nelson was expected to face John Hathaway on July 11, 2015 at UFC 189. However, Hathaway pulled out of the bout on June 23 citing injury, and was replaced by Brandon Thatch. Nelson won the fight by submission due to a rear naked choke in round one after dropping Thatch with a left-right hand combo.
Nelson was briefly linked to a fight with Demian Maia on October 24, 2015 at UFC Fight Night 76, but the bout did not materialize for that event as Maia was sidelined with a staph infection on his left leg. The bout eventually took place on December 12, 2015 at UFC 194. Nelson lost the one-sided fight via unanimous decision.
Nelson was expected to face Dong Hyun Kim on November 19, 2016 at UFC Fight Night 99. However on October 21, it was announced that Nelson had pulled out due to an injury and the fight was off. Kim was rescheduled to face Tarec Saffiedine on December 30, 2016 at UFC 207.
Nelson faced Alan Jouban on March 18, 2017 at UFC Fight Night 107. After rocking Jouban with a punch, Nelson secured a guillotine choke to win by submission in the second round. He was awarded a Performance of the Night bonus.
Nelson faced Santiago Ponzinibbio on July 16, 2017 at UFC Fight Night 113. He lost the fight by knockout in the first round. At the post fight press conference, Nelson claimed that Ponzinibbio poked him in the eye during one of the earlier exchange and caused him see double as he put it “And I really should have said something because I was seeing double for the rest of the fight. He caught me with a shot that I didn’t really see.” Ponzinibbio dismissed Nelson claim and stated "I went there to knock him out and thank God it went as expected, I won by knockout. If (the eye poke) happened, of course it wasn’t intentional, but I watched the video again and didn’t see it." After the fight, Nelson appealed his lost to no contest, where to referee failed to stop the fight due to eye pokes under the Unified Rules of MMA, was denied by UFC.
Throughout his career, Gunnar has never engaged in extensive weight cutting. Gunnar's training weight is around 175–176 pounds, necessitating only a 5–6 pound weight cut. Gunnar has been a big proponent of instituting strict rules against weight cutting, arguing that the practice is dangerous to the fighters and counterproductive to the UFC, as it leads to fights being cancelled or fought at catch weight.
Gunnar fights and spars without wraps on his hands and uses small gloves. He has said that he would fight without any gloves if it were possible. He maintains that minimal wraps and gloves give him a better feel of what he's doing with his hands. Wraps and gloves are intended to protect fighters' hands, but Gunnar notes that he has never broken his hands.
|Professional record breakdown|
|20 matches||16 wins||3 losses|
|Loss||16–3–1||Santiago Ponzinibbio||KO (punches)||UFC Fight Night: Nelson vs. Ponzinibbio||16 July 2017||1||1:22||Glasgow, Scotland|
|Win||16–2–1||Alan Jouban||Submission (guillotine choke)||UFC Fight Night: Manuwa vs. Anderson||18 March 2017||2||0:46||London, England||Performance of the Night.|
|Win||15–2–1||Albert Tumenov||Submission (neck crank)||UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Arlovski||8 May 2016||2||3:15||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Performance of the Night.|
|Loss||14–2–1||Demian Maia||Decision (unanimous)||UFC 194||12 December 2015||3||5:00||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Win||14–1–1||Brandon Thatch||Submission (rear-naked choke)||UFC 189||11 July 2015||1||2:54||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Loss||13–1–1||Rick Story||Decision (split)||UFC Fight Night: Nelson vs. Story||4 October 2014||5||5:00||Stockholm, Sweden|
|Win||13–0–1||Zak Cummings||Submission (rear-naked choke)||UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao||19 July 2014||2||4:48||Dublin, Ireland||Performance of the Night.|
|Win||12–0–1||Omari Akhmedov||Submission (guillotine choke)||UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa||8 March 2014||1||4:36||London, England||Performance of the Night.|
|Win||11–0–1||Jorge Santiago||Decision (unanimous)||UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald||16 February 2013||3||5:00||London, England|
|Win||10–0–1||DaMarques Johnson||Submission (rear-naked choke)||UFC on Fuel TV: Struve vs. Miocic||29 September 2012||1||3:34||Nottingham, England||Catchweight (175 lbs) bout; Johnson missed weight (183 lbs).|
|Win||9–0–1||Alexander Butenko||Submission (armbar)||Cage Contender XII||25 February 2012||1||4:21||Dublin, Ireland|
|Win||8–0–1||Eugene Fadiora||Submission (neck crank)||BAMMA 4||25 September 2010||1||3:51||Birmingham, England|
|Win||7–0–1||Danny Mitchell||Submission (rear-naked choke)||Cage Contender VI||28 August 2010||1||2:51||Manchester, England|
|Win||6–0–1||Sam Elsdon||Submission (rear-naked choke)||BAMMA 2||13 February 2010||1||2:30||London, England|
|Win||5–0–1||Iran Mascarenhas||KO (punch)||Adrenaline 3: Evolution||6 September 2008||2||3:22||Copenhagen, Denmark|
|Win||4–0–1||Barry Mairs||TKO (punches)||Angrrr Management 14: Ready for War||9 December 2007||1||3:38||London, England|
|Win||3–0–1||Niek Tromp||Submission (punches)||Cage of Truth 1: Battle on the Bay||24 November 2007||1||1:50||Dublin, Ireland|
|Win||2–0–1||Adam Slawinski||TKO (punches)||Ultimate Fighting Revolution 10||6 October 2007||1||2:30||Galway, Ireland|
|Win||1–0–1||Driss El Bakara||Submission (armbar)||Cage Rage Contenders: Dynamite||29 September 2007||1||3:46||Dublin, Ireland|
|Draw||0–0–1||John Olesen||Draw (split)||Adrenaline Sports tournament||5 May 2007||3||5:00||Copenhagen, Denmark|