There may be bigger things looming in the future for Alexander Gustafsson, but you'd never know it from talking to him.
"The Mauler" is coming off a career-making performance where he took light heavyweight champion Jon Jones into deeper waters than the champion had previously experienced and came up just short of dethroning the 26-year-old phenom. Yet, despite the fight being one of the year's best and there being substantial heat for an immediate rematch, "Bones" decided to move on to the next challenge. Gustafsson was forced to take another fight with the promise of earning another championship opportunity with a victory in his next outing.
While those circumstances could certainly add an element of pressure, the 27-year-old Stockholm-based fighter is ice cold in his approach. The only thing on the recent title challenger's mind is the man standing directly in his path and the work he has to do to overcome his next challenge.
The rising light heavyweight star will face undefeated knockout artist Jimi Manuwa in the main event at Fight Night 38 when the UFC returns to London this Saturday. While they are currently at different ends of the spectrum in the divisional hierarchy, Gustafsson understands the caliber of threat the heavy-handed Brit will present inside the Octagon.
With Manuwa's proven ability to finish the opposition in brutal fashion, Gustafsson has blocked out the hovering narratives of title talk and future opportunities and set his sights on putting the first loss on the "Posterboy's" record.
Where Gustafsson is historically short with his words, he's been even more so in the lead up to this fight. He has consistently deflected talk of anything but his fight with Manuwa and has every intention of showcasing the hard work he's invested to prepare for this upcoming challenge.
“I’ve been working hard and I’m ready," Gustafsson told Bleacher Report. "I did my preparation for him and I'm ready for whatever he throws. Wherever this fight goes I'm prepared. I've been working hard and people are going to see a better Alex than they saw the last time out. I'm ready to finish Jimi.
“I’m not thinking about a title shot or a rematch with Jon Jones. The only thing I am focused on is this fight with Jimi on Saturday. I can’t look past him and he is getting every bit of my focus right now. I put all my focus on the challenge that is right in front of me."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.