Alexander Gustafsson Says He's 'Here to Stay' After 'Emotional' UFC Retirement

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2020

Alexander Gustafsson, right, lands a punch to Jon Jones during the UFC men's light heavyweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 232, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

Alexander Gustafsson opened up about his abrupt retirement following his defeat to Anthony Smith in June 2019.

"It was an emotional moment. Nothing else," Gustafsson said of the decision, per MMA Fighting's Damon Martin. "I was just heartbroken. It was a tough fight. It was in Stockholm. It was against a guy I know I've got the tools to beat, but I didn't obviously."

The 33-year-old Swede is slated to fight Fabricio Werdum on the UFC on ESPN 14 card this Saturday.

"Right now, it's just one fight at a time," he said. "I'm fighting Werdum; I'll beat Werdum on Saturday then we'll take the next one. I'm here to stay."

In Gustafsson's last bout, Smith got in behind him and locked in a body triangle in the fourth round. He slowly wore down the 6'5" contender enough to lock in a rear-naked choke for the victory.

Gustafsson couldn't hide his disappointment with the result in his immediate post-fight interview. He told the home crowd "the show is over" before dropping his gloves to the mat.

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As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that appears to be the case for Gustafsson when it came to his UFC career. He said he knew about a month or two after falling to Smith that he wanted to fight again.

His matchup with Werdum represents a new challenge as well.

Gustafsson fought for the UFC light heavyweight title on three occasions, losing twice to Jon Jones and once to Daniel Cormier. Now, he'll be debuting in the heavyweight division.

Werdum is nine years older and hasn't registered a victory since earning a unanimous decision over Marcin Tybura at UFC Fight Night 121 in November 2017. As a former heavyweight champion, though, he'll represent a stiff test for Gustafsson on UFC's Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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