As of Saturday night, Alexander Gustafsson still had never set
his eyes on a replay of his UFC 165 match with Jon Jones. Dubbed by
some the fight of the year, and by others the best fight ever, the
five-round battle was just something he could not yet watch.
“It’s just too hard for me,” Gustafsson told
FOX Sports earlier this week. “I have to… I haven’t
really … It would be …”
Even talking about it seemed difficult for him, over a month
after the final bell ring on his close loss.
“It’s not my thing really,” he finally said.
“It’s too hard for me to watch the fight. But I will do
it. I will sit down with my team and watch it and break it down in
All he was waiting for was something to look forward to. For
some reason, it would be too difficult when everything was still so
uncertain. As of Friday, he still had heard nothing about what
might be next for him. He’d heard rumors, but was mostly just
playing the waiting game. No longer. On Saturday, after leaving his
seat for UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz, Gustafsson walked
towards the tent that housed that post-fight press conference and
in a surprise to everyone including him, heard his future.
Minutes after the press conference began, UFC president Dana
White announced that Gustafsson would fight Antonio Rogerio
Nogueira on March 8 in London. The fight will be the night’s
main event, and if Gustafsson wins, he will earn another chance to
fight for the light-heavyweight championship.
The news washed over Gustafsson like a cool breeze.
“That belt is always in my mind. I will get that belt. I
will fight Jones again and I’m going to take that belt.
That’s how it is,” he told FOX Sports. “But now I
can recharge and look at another opponent. I just feel super
motivated and ready to go.”
With the fight taking place in Europe, Gustafsson is likely to
conduct his entire training camp in Sweden.
The matchup with Nogueira was supposed to happen once before. In
April 2012, they were scheduled as the main event of a UFC on FUEL
card, but Nogueira fell injured, and instead, Gustafsson faced and
defeated Thiago Silva.
As a result, Gustafsson and Nogueira will go into camp already
with an understanding of each other.
And while he’ll focus on Nogueira, his gaze will
occasionally stray to the distance, at the light-heavyweight title
belt he was so close to winning, and at Jones, who he would prefer
to face in a rematch over Glover Teixeira.
In fact, Gustafsson said he expects to fight Jones several more
times in his career. As many as five or fix.
“We’re going to fight a bunch of times,” he
said. “I don’t know about rivalry, but it’s going
to be him and me at the end.”
Gustafsson likely will be considered a favorite over Nogueira,
who has fought only once since the start of 2012 while withdrawing
from two fights due to injury.
Still, it was enough for Gustafsson to turn the page from the
most painful moment of his career, to the beginning of a new one
that could lead him back towards the accomplishment of his career
“I’m in another position today in my career,”
he said. “I’m feeling great. I’m feeling
comfortable where I’m at. I would feel much better if I had
the belt around my waist but I will have it soon enough.”