With the UFC light heavyweight title to be contested on July 29 at UFC 214 between current champion Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, the question becomes who will be waiting in the wings for the winner. On that same night Jimi Manuwa will take on Volkan Oezdemir, in what could be a conditional No. 1 contender bout — meaning, if Manuwa wins, he could be next.
Then there’s Alexander Gustafsson.
Gustafsson is coming off an impressive fifth-round knockout over Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 109, which took place on May 28. Now with two wins in a row, Gustafsson is knocking at the door for a title shot, as well. And he has history with both Jones and Cormier.
His fight with Jones at UFC 165 is considered one of the best in UFC history, while his bout with Cormier at UFC 192 — a split decision loss — was among one of the most memorable. Yet even with those lures in his back pocket, Gustafsson — who trains with Manuwa at the Allstars Training Center in Stockholm — wouldn’t mind if the “Poster Boy” gets the next crack at a title. In fact, he said if that’s the case he’d likely congratulate Manuwa and give him a hug.
“Well, I haven’t spoken to Dana [White] yet, so let’s see what happens,” he said during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “If Jimi gets it, I’m happy for him. So let’s see what happens.”
Gustafsson said he will likely be in Anaheim for the fights in support of Manuwa, and to take in Jones-Cormier II. Should Manuwa win and be pegged as the next in line to challenge for the belt, Gustafsson made it clear he will not look to challenge Manuwa.
“I’d probably have to fight another guy, we’re not fighting each other,” he said. “We’re brothers now, and we’re training hard together. So that’s how we look at things. I’m just happy if he gets the fight, and we’ll take it from there.”
Then again, the 30-year old Swede said that he believed his win over Teixeira clearly places him near the peak of the division, and that he will be “looking to the top” for his next fight. He hopes his discussion with White will help clear things up.
Gustafsson’s rooting interest in the Jones-Cormier shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that he has been very vocal about his distaste for Jones since his last bout. Gustafsson said that he didn’t believe Jones is a good person, and pointed out his casual references to using cocaine during the UFC’s Summer Kickoff press conference in Dallas.
“I’m excited to see the fight first of all, and I have to be honest, I like DC,” he said. “For me he’s a worthy champion, he’s a good guy. I hope he wins, but I wouldn’t say no to a fight against Jon Jones either. That’s the fight people want to see, and I will fight him. So, let’s see what happens.”
Gustafsson said he is hopeful that he will get a rematch with Jones down the line, even if it’s not for a title. Given the close nature of the first fight in 2013, he believes everyone involved would be interested, too.
“It’s one of those fights you really want. I want that fight, and I know the fans want that fight. And I know he wants the fight, too. So, yeah, probably.”