When Alexander Gustafsson knocked out Glover Teixeira in the fifth round of their “Fight of the Night”-winning slugfest last May, it was thought that the power-punching Swede had earned a third shot at the UFC 205-pound gold.
However, shoulder surgery and the rise of recent title challenger Volkan Oezdemir put that on hold, and the opportunity appeared to slip through his grasp once more when divisional champion Daniel Cormier announced he was moving up to heavyweight to meet Stipe Miocic at July’s UFC 226.
With Jon Jones out and his future very uncertain, that’s created a strange position for Gustafsson, who told Viaplay Fight Week (via MMANYTT) that his situation in the division has gotten a little tricky due to his own desire to not fight training partners and close friends Ilir Latifi and Jimi Manuwa:
“We’re teammates, we are friends — close friends — first and foremost and we won’t fight each other,” Gustafsson said of Latifi and Manuwa. “I want to start our discussion by making it clear that we will not fight each other, so now you all know.”
“It’s a tricky situation, for sure. But I mean, we’ll see what happens. [Daniel Cormier] is now going up to face [Stipe Miocic], Ilir Latifi has heavyweight as a possibility,” he continued. “We’ll sort it out somehow. Of course, we both should be able to dream of the belt and we both should get our chances to fight for the title, but we’ll see how it all turns out when we get there.”
Gustafsson then discussed a potential solution, adding that he could move up to heavyweight:
“I can move up to heavyweight, in the light heavyweight division we have Jon Jones coming back, [Daniel Cormier] who maybe is coming back or maybe not. We’ll see how it all plays out.
But me and Ilir Latifi will not compete against each other and the same goes for Jimi Manuwa.”
‘The Mauler’ then declared that he and his teammates would simply have to sit down and talk out the tough spot before once again suggesting he could go up a division:
“We’ll simply have to sit down and talk.” Gustafsson said about the messy situation. “How are we going to solve this in the best possible way? Time will tell — but trust me, we’ll sort it out.
“Heavyweight is also an option. I’m a heavyweight today. I’m actually only a light heavyweight during one day and that’s the weigh-in, after that I’m a good heavyweight.”
The 6′ 5″ Swede is certainly one of the biggest competitors at light heavyweight, evident by his narrow split-decision loss to Jones in their classic UFC 165 fight that many consider the best title fight in the historic division’s decorated timeline.
But would he be able to take on the big dogs at heavyweight?