Three-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger, Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson is reportedly targeting an Octagon return this summer, after he snapped a year’s retirement last July on ‘Fight Island’ in his heavyweight divisional bow. 

Gustafsson, 34, hung up his gloves following a rear-naked choke defeat to fellow former light heavyweight title chaser, Anthony Smith at UFC Fight Night Stockholm in June of 2019. Laying his gloves on the Octagon canvas following the fourth round submission loss to the Nebraska veteran, Gustafsson told the hometown crowd; “The show is over, guys — before he exited the Octagon. 

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Rumblings of a quickfire retirement snapping return were on the rise in April of last year, when Gustafsson explained that he was planning to travel to the United States amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic once restrictions would allow, before eventually penning an Octagon return for July. 

Featuring on ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi, UAE in his return to the promotion, Gustafsson made the heavyweight limit for the first time in his organizational stay, tackling former division kingpin and recent PFL mover, Fabricio Werdum

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In what ultimately came as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, Werdum’s last Octagon walk, he managed an armbar stoppage over Gustafsson in the opening frame. The loss marked the premier occasion Gustafsson had suffered three consecutive losses in his professional career.

Speculation has been rife ever since the loss regarding Gustafsson’s career, and according to a report this afternoon from Swedish outlet, FrontKick.Online — the 34-year-old is set to travel to the United States on Friday, in tandem with UFC welterweight upstart, Khamzat Chimaev, as well as UFC lightweight contender, Guram Kutateladze. 

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A 17-fight Octagon veteran, Gustafsson has challenged for undisputed UFC light heavyweight gold on three separate occasions. Pushing then-champion, Jon Jones to his absolute limits back at UFC 165, Gustafsson suffered a close unanimous decision loss, before finding himself on the wrong side of a split judging loss to Daniel Cormier. In his last challenge, Gustafsson suffered a third round ground-and-pound stoppage loss against Jones. 

The Arboga native has scored notable career triumphs over the likes of Matt Hamill, Thiago Silva, Shogun Rua, Jimi Manuwa, Glover Teixeira, and current light heavyweight kingpin, Jan Blachowicz.