What’s Up With Alexander Gustafsson These Days?

Alexander Gustafsson
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that Alexander Gustafsson hasn’t fought in over a year. The No. 1 contender in the UFC light heavyweight division, Gustafsson is one of the best fighters in the 205lbs weight class in the world. He was half of one of the greatest fights of all time when he fought tooth-and-nail with Jon Jones at UFC 165. And he was one of the few men to actually compete with Daniel Cormier, losing a split decision at UFC 192. Gustafsson is an exciting fighter with huge knockout power, and on paper he should be one of the biggest stars in the sport. But it seems like he barely fights anymore, and with him pulling out of UFC 227 rather suddenly it’s fair to wonder what’s up with him nowadays.

It was just last May when Gustafsson brutally knocked out Glover Teixeira and demanded a rematch with either Jones or Cormier for the title. He didn’t get his title shot, and in the time since Gustafsson’s last fight, Cormier has fought both Jones and Stipe Miocic, while Gustafsson has sat on the sidelines demanding the next fight for the UFC light heavyweight title. He was finally set to make his long-awaited return to the Octagon next weekend at UFC 227 against Volkan Oezdemir, but that fight was cancelled due to Oezdemir suffering a broken nose in training. Fighters such as Khalil Rountree offered to step in, but Gustafsson’s team shot them down, saying it was title fight or bust for “The Mauler” even knowing Cormier is likely fighting Brock Lesnar next. After Anthony Smith viciously finished Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC Hamburg and called out Gustafsson, all of a sudden we heard he was injured too, and now he’s off of UFC 227 completely, further delaying his return to the Octagon, and putting him farther away from a title shot at 205lbs.

I understand how frustrated Gustafsson is, and if he is truly injured then of course he’s not going to fight next week at UFC 227. Having said that, even though he’s the No. 1 contender he shouldn’t be expecting an immediate title shot as soon as he comes back to the Octagon. Yes, it’s true that Gustafsson had razor-close fights with both Jones and Cormier that could have seen him get his hand raised if a different set of judges were watching. But on his record those are two losses, and even though Gustafsson is an amazing fighter, it’s ridiculous that he is constantly demanding a title shot — either for the real or interim belt — when he fights on average once a year these days. It was harsh for DC to recently come out and blast Gustafsson on social media by calling him “entitled” but maybe he’s on to something with his comments. I don’t know what’s up with Gustafsson these days, but he’s quickly gone from being a fan favorite to turning into a guy who seems to be talking a lot more than he is fighting.

At this point, I don’t know how Gustafsson could reasonably expect a title shot when he is healthy to fight again. DC, the champ, looks to have no interest in fighting him, especially given that the Lesnar fight is just six months away from happening. Gustafsson can’t expect the UFC to strip DC of the title either, so at this point he really needs to put away in his mind any thought of getting a title shot in his next fight. Sure, he’s ranked No. 1 and he earned that ranking, but as time goes on and the sport moves on, things change.

Now, Gustafsson should probably have to fight a guy like Smith or Rountree and prove to everyone that he’s that much better than these up-and-coming fighters. As good as that Jones fight was, it was almost five years ago now. As good as that Cormier fight was, it’s almost three years ago now. As good as the knockout over Teixeira was, it was over a year ago. While the rest of the division moves on, Gustafsson has just sat around waiting and hoping for a title shot, one that he won’t be getting anytime soon. At this point, Gustafsson just needs to fight someone, because while he was on the brink of superstardom just a few years ago, he’s now on the verge of becoming a thing of the past in this fast-moving sport.

Do you think Alexander Gustafsson is entitled?