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Gustafsson: “Everybody knows the best guy out there is Jon Jones”

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photos by Michael Campanella/Zuffa LLC

It’s hard to believe that Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson is building up to one of the most important fights of his career a little over four months after suffering a devastating KO loss at the hands of Anthony Johnson.

Back in January it was the rangy Swede and ‘Rumble’ meeting in Stockholm for a number one contender spot. Johnson progressed after it took just one round to upset the hometown hero at the groundbreaking European stadium show, but when Jon Jones ran into some trouble with the law, Daniel Cormier stepped in to face Johnson for the title at UFC 187.

On claiming the title Cormier had words for two men—Jon Jones and Ryan Bader. Knowing that the world would see Jones as the rightful champion, Cormier let the public know he was down for a rematch with Jones, despite being on the wrong end of a one sided decision against ‘Bones’ in early January.

Bader, having clocked up a four-fight win streak, made a lot of sense as a first potential defense for the newly crowned champion. The two even had a little back and forth at the post fight press conference for UFC 187. The news that he would instead face Gustafsson came as a surprise to Cormier, and to be fair to the Swede, he admits it was a bit of shock for him too.

“I haven’t looked into what Daniel has been saying, but I’m very glad that I’ve been given this opportunity,” says Gustafsson, just five days after his second crack at UFC gold was announced. “I’m lucky that I get another chance. To be honest, I was surprised myself when they first told me that I would be fighting for the title. It’s sunk in now and it’s great. I’m going to make the best of it. I know I’m going to be motivated when it comes time to fight ‘DC’.”

Having seen how dominant Cormier can be when allowed close in on Johnson, Gustafsson knows how important distance will be when the two face off. ‘The Mauler’ has been the only man to ever really frustrate Jones despite falling short in their controversial, albeit memorable, meeting back in September 2013—a bout that many feel should have been awarded to the European.  

 

Many would give ‘Gusty’ the advantage in the striking department and Cormier the advantage when it comes to wrestling ahead of their meeting. The Allstars front runner is expecting to see both fighters using all aspects of the their games to get the win in what he believes will be an incredibly competitive encounter.

“I think this is going to be a real fight, you know,” acknowledges the contender. “I’ve got to work on keeping my distance and using my footwork to my advantage. I know ‘DC’ is going to come in hard, throwing powerful punches and if the opportunity presents itself he will use his wrestling.

“I think he’s very confident with his striking, he’s obviously a very high caliber athlete. He’s got a lot of belief in himself and I’m expecting him to trade with me a little bit, I certainly don’t think he’s going to be afraid to stand up with me or anything like that. I kind of feel the same about his wrestling.

“Wrestling is all about taking you opportunities when different situations unfold. If I find myself in the right situation against Cormier, I’ll use my wrestling too. We’ll have to see what happens, this is an MMA fight and anything can happen.”

Although the light heavyweight contender looks back on his loss to Johnson as one of the tougher turning points of his career, he is now using it to fuel his preparation for Cormier. Gustafsson insisted he is leaving no stone unturned ahead of the bout reportedly set for UFC 191, where he hopes to prove to everyone that he is the best fighter at 205 lbs in the world.

“The Johnson loss was very hard, it was a tough blow for my career. I was down for a while, I didn’t show up for training but now I feel like I’m on top of my game. I’ve got my passion and my motivation back, and I’ve got this huge title fight coming up so that helps as well.

“It doesn’t get any better than that. I’m really ready for this fight, I’m training hard, I’m already in camp and it’s 13 weeks out from the fight. I’m working my ass off now, so when the time comes to fight DC I’m going to show that I’ve turned every stone I possibly can to be the best that I can be. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that loss was hard for my career, but I’m going to make sure that it never happens again.

“Nothing really felt right about the fight. I didn’t even feel nervous before I went out. There were a lot of little things like that didn’t make any sense. I don’t want to take anything away from Anthony’s great performance, but I know I have the potential to be the best guy in the world and I will show it now. This fight with DC is a new start for me and I’m feeling great,” he states.  

Although there has been much debate since last week’s announcement given that Gustafsson will walk into a title shot straight off a loss, having the Swede as champion certainly opens up some interesting rematches. Obviously, the world has been waiting to see another contest between him and Jones, and the European standout also agreed that a rematch with Johnson is definitely something he would be open to in the future.

“The fight that everybody wants to see is a rematch with me and Jones. Let’s see what happens but I’m ready for that, it’s the fight that has been motivating me. I think it’s a fight that is going to happen one day, for sure.

“Of course, I want to fight Anthony Johnson again some day too. I want to show everybody that I’m much better than I was that night. I definitely want to fight those two guys again, but I think I have a lot to give the division as a whole. I’ve got a lot of years left in my career, and I want to fight a lot of different guys.”

Gustaffson also outlined his views on UFC stripping Jones of his title. While the Swede sees Cormier as the champion, he knows that the world will only see the person who beats ‘Bones’ as the top dog at 205 lbs.  

“Whoever is holding the belt is the official champion, but everybody knows that the best guy out there is Jon Jones,” declares Gustafsson. “He’s the pound for pound best guy in the world and you can probably only consider yourself a real world champion if you beat him.” 

 

Check out this related story:

Gustafsson Gets Another Shot, Bader Falls Behind

 

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