According to Combate, Alexander Gustafsson will cut his retirement short to return to the octagon, this time at heavyweight with Fabricio Werdum being the targeted opponent. ‘The Mauler’ retired from MMA in June of last year following a submission loss to Anthony Smith in front of a home crowd in Stockholm. Gustafsson will move up to heavyweight for the first time in his career following three unsuccessful shots at the light-heavyweight belt.
July 25th is the date reported, putting the bout on fight island on a card believed to be headlined by a middleweight contest between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till. Gustafsson’s opponent Werdum, though a former heavyweight champion, has had a rough few years in his career. Following a two-year USADA suspension, Werdum returned at UFC 249 where he lost a split decision to Aleksei Oleinik in a lackluster performance.
It is also being reported that if this fight cannot be made, Ovince Saint Preux who recently made a heavyweight debut of his own will take Werdum’s place. Saint Preux’s heavyweight debut last month saw him lose a split decision to Ben Rothwell.
Gustaffson had been inactive in his last run at UFC gold, fighting just once a year for four consecutive years. This run saw him defeat Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeria, with his stoppage of Teixeira in the fifth round becoming a career highlight. He then fought the champion Jon Jones in a rematch of their razer-close title fight five years before the re-run. This time, the fight was not as close as Jones controlled ‘The Mauler’ from the outset, getting the TKO finish in the third round.
At only 33 years old, Gustafsson hopefully still has lots to offer by moving up a weight class and giving the division another top-level competitor. With Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov recently having a fight announced, Daniel Cormier and champion Stipe Miocic seemingly locked in a waiting game for their trilogy fight and Francis Ngannou waiting on the winners’ doorstep, Gustafsson could find himself in the mix fast. Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones were the two men able to stop Gustafsson from winning the belt at 205 pounds, and with Cormier approaching what may be the last fight of his UFC career and Jones having negotiation issues with the UFC over a move to heavyweight, could this be the big Swede’s best opportunity to finally grab hold of UFC gold?