Alexander Gustafsson is fully healthy and ready to return to the Octagon, but he isn’t exactly sure what his next move will be given the current state of the light heavyweight division.
While rematches with Daniel Cormier or Jon Jones would seem to be the most attractive options, neither one is likely going to be available in the near future. Cormier is challenging Stipe Miocic for heavyweight gold at UFC 226 on July 7, while Jones could be looking at a four-year USADA suspension stemming from a failed drug test at UFC 214. During an appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Gustafsson discussed his current situation.
“I wish I had an answer to that right now, but I really don’t,” he said. “It just has to be a meaningful offer, it has to be something I feel, ‘This is right, this is what I want.’ I feel like in my position, in my career right now, every fight has to mean something.
“It could be something else too, but it has to feel right. It has to be something meaningful. Something good. Everybody knows when I’m stepping up into that Octagon I’m going to perform and I’m going to make a show. I’m looking for that gold. That’s all I’m seeing.”
Thus far, Gustafsson says that the Las Vegas-based promotion hasn’t presented him with anything appealing.
“There’s been some discussions, but nothing that really I count on,” he said. “It’s just been up in the air and I’m just waiting for something on the table that makes sense. I’m ready to go, man.”
“The Mauler” hasn’t competed since a fifth-round knockout of former title challenger Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 109 last May. That gave Gustafsson two straight victories since a hard-fought split decision defeat in a title bout against Cormier at UFC 192, but his momentum was slowed somewhat by a shoulder injury suffered in training last year.
“I was wrestling. I got taken down, believe it or not —actually slammed,” Gustafsson said. “I was trying to post my arm and I was slammed. It didn’t hurt at first, but it was just a mess in there. I’ve been rehabbing. I took it out at the end of last year, but I had a plate for a couple of months.
“Nothing was broken but the collarbone dislocated, ripped apart from my shoulder,” he continued. “So they had to put it back in, put the plate on, put three screws down. That’s the first real injury I had for my whole career. Ligaments, tendons, everything just torn apart. I feel fine, I’m 100 percent now. This happened in August. They took away the plate at the end of last year, I’ve been rehabbing for a couple of months.”
Gustafsson was pleased with his effort against Teixeira, and he believes a similar effort would yield a different result if he were to rematch Cormier.
“If I fought DC like I fought Glover, I’ll beat him,” Gustafsson said. “I’ll beat him all day long.”
For now, though, Cormier has other pressing business with his champion vs. champion superfight at UFC 226. That matchup puts the entire division on hold, and the wait for a title shot could be even longer, depending on how Cormier fares vs. Miocic.
“It does [put the belt in limbo]. I didn’t see that coming, the DC-Stipe fight, at all,” Gustafsson said. “It’s a great fight for them and the fans and sport, but for us standing in line, we’re just waiting for an opportunity and it’s not gonna be there…The whole division, it’s just crazy right now.”
Meanwhile, Gustafsson’s 2013 bout against Jon Jones, who was then light heavyweight champion, remains one of the UFC’s greatest battles. Gustafsson had control early, but Jones rallied late to win a decision. Still, there were plenty of observers who felt that the Swede deserved the nod after five rounds.
“It was really tough because everybody was saying, ‘You’re winning this fight.’ It was just right there at the goal line. I didn’t really pass that goal line at all,” he said. “It was tough. It’s a really good experience for me. The fight is a highlight in my career, in my life, for sure.
“Winning over Jon Jones is bigger than taking the belt. The guy is such a beast…Look at what he did to DC.”
That said, Gustafsson wouldn’t be opposed to facing Jones in another combat sport if he gets a harsh suspension from USADA.
“If he doesn’t come back, maybe I fight him in boxing,” Gustafsson said. “It’s bigger than winning the belt.”