Dana White recently suggested that a fight with Anthony Johnson “makes sense” for Alexander Gustafsson, but the Swedish fighter has his sights set on getting a title shot next and has been dismissive of the potential match-up.
“I have fought both worse and better opponents,” Gustafsson told Swedish newspaper Expressen. “Had [the Johnson] fight taken me somewhere, I would have been the first to accept. Since his return to the UFC after being kicked out, he has beaten Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who passed his expiration date a long time ago, and Phil Davis. He needs at least a couple wins more.
“We are not in the playground anymore, it’s not about who is the toughest, it’s about my career. I want to have a long and successful career. You have to think tactically and you can’t just go in and swing against the first best opponent.”
Gustafsson remains in the current No.1 contender in the light-heavyweight division and had been scheduled to fight Jon Jones for the title later this month at UFC 178 in Las vegas before an injury forced him out of action, and now he’s playing second fiddle to the No.2 ranked Daniel Cormier who stepped in to replace him and has maintained that spot despite the bout now being delayed until late January.
Ideally ‘The Mauler’ hopes to just sit out and wait to face the winner of that fight, but that would mean he’d have been out of action for at least a year since his TKO victory over Jimi Manuwa, and it’s clear that isn’t sitting too comfortably with the UFC brass.
If White decides to force the issue then there’s little Gustafsson can do about it and the No.5 ranked Johnson would make a lot of sense since he’s also currently without an opponent.
There aren’t many other options at hand. The No.4 ranked Rashad Evans is currently out injured and doesn’t expect to return until February of next year, so the winner of Glover Teixeira (No.3) and Phil Davis (No.6), a fight which takes place in Late October at UFC 179, is the only other fight that could realistically be made for Gustafsson.
It wouldn’t really make sense for Gustafsson to hold out for either of them rather than ‘Rumble’ though. Davis already holds a win over him and was also his team-mate for a number of years after that, so it’s doubtful that’s a fight he’d want, while Teixeira is similar to Johnson in that he’s another dangerous striker, but has less hype surrounding him at the moment.
The ball’s very much in the UFC’s court here, so it’ll be interesting to see how they choose to proceed.