Despite a dominant win over former champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (22-7 MMA, 5-5 UFC) in what was billed as a No. 1 contender's bout on Saturday, Alexander Gustafsson (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) said he won't wait around for a title shot.
And, in fact, his next fight could already be lined up.
Following Gustafsson's UFC on FOX 5 co-main event win at Seattle's KeyArena, UFC President Dana White told FUEL TV the Swedish fighter could replace Dan Henderson in his UFC 157 bout with ex-champ Lyoto Machida in early 2013.
Henderson, of course, was slated to fight reigning light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones back in September. But Henderson suffered a knee injury, Jones went on to defeat replacement Vitor Belfort, and then in a surprising twist, the champ was booked with recent middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen as coaches on "The Ultimate Fighter 17." They'll then headline an April 27 pay-per-view event, which likely puts the winner on the shelf until well into the summer.
So Henderson (29-8 MMA, 6-2 UFC) then was slated to fight Machida (18-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) on Feb. 23 in Anaheim, Calif. However, Gustafsson could take his slot.
"If I was him, I'd want to get another fight in before taking on Jon Jones," White said of Gustafsson. "He could fight again. I'm hearing Dan Henderson's knee isn't better, so maybe Gustafsson should fight Machida next."
It's not clear if Henderson will be forced out of the pay-per-view event, which will receive some extra attention due to the headliner (newly crowned women's champ Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche), but Gustafsson said he's open to the fight with Machida, which would come in just 11 weeks.
"I want to stay active, and I want to fight," said Gustafsson, who's fought just twice in 2012. "I'll fight whenever. I was away for a long time. The last time I fought was in April, and that was too long. To wait till summer again, that would be too long.
"I want to fight for the belt, and if they give me one before that, it doesn't matter. I'll fight whoever the UFC gives me."
Since a submission loss to now-teammate Phil Davis at UFC 112, Gustafsson has won six consecutive fights against some of the division's top fighters. And his reach and range make him an attractive option for Jones, whose own physical attributes have resulted in one dominant performance after another.
A lot could change between now and then, though. Henderson's knee could turn out to be fine, Sonnen could upset Jones, and Gustafsson's spot in the title line could be pushed back even further.
While he won't wait on the sidelines for his opportunity, he said his eye is squarely on the big prize.
"All I can say is, I'm a ready for a title shot – whoever has the belt," Gustafsson said. "When I get a chance to fight for the title, I'll be more than ready for it."