After losing to Anthony Smith in front of a home crowd in Stockholm, Sweden, Alexander Gustafsson left his gloves in the Octagon and announced his retirement. Just three months later, “The Mauler” now says he is working on a potential comeback.
“I’m talking with the UFC, we are going back and forth,” Gustafsson told MMA Viking.
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The three-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger suffered his second-straight loss the night Smith finished him by fourth-round rear-naked choke. Previously, he was stopped in the third round of his rematch with rival Jon Jones for the vacant title.
Gustafsson said the decision to retire immediately after his loss to Smith was an emotional one, which is why he’s pondering a return.
“It came quite fast,” Gustafsson said. “I was home for a couple days, and I had itching in my hands and wanted to get back and train.”
“The Mauler,” who has competed solely at light heavyweight throughout his 12-year career, says he currently weighs “about 240-245 pounds” after enjoying his time off with his family and not worrying about staying in fighting shape. He confirms that he is getting back into the routine of training at Allstars Training Center, however.
Though he retired in June, Gustafsson is currently the sixth-ranked light heavyweight in the UFC’s official rankings. But with two losses to the reigning champion Jones, he knows he’ll need to work his way back into the title picture if he’s serious about making another run.
Despite his talks with the UFC, Gustafsson said he will begin training without any set opponent for his return.
“I am in no man’s land,” Gustafsson said. “I just want to train and get into shape. Let’s see how it goes.”
In his training, “The Mauler” is trying to find out why he has recently struggled to transfer the fighter in the gym into the fighter in the Octagon when the cage door closes.
“We are trying to figure out what I do wrong in competitions,” Gustafsson said. “I felt so good before the last fight. Something is not right, and I need to fix it.
As for who an opponent he has in mind for his return, Gustafsson expressed interest in fighting another big name now in the light heavyweight division.
“A fight against Luke [Rockhold] would be a great way to come back,” Gustafsson said. “He is a tough guy, a legend.”
Rockhold made his 205-pound debut in July against Jan Blachowicz. He was knocked unconscious by Blachowicz in the second round of the bout, his second-straight loss by knockout and his fourth in his career.
The former middleweight champion is not currently ranked in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.