Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting
UFC light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson is a proud Swede, and nothing would make him happier than to bring a title back to his homeland. However, before he can live out those aspirations, he'll have to go through 'Shogun' at UFC on FOX 5 in Seattle.
It's a distinction that has been made on behalf of Alexander Gustafsson throughout most of his career.
Maybe it's because of their similar lanky builds or their unorthodox and flashy striking attacks. Either way, the two have been linked to each other for much of their respective careers.
But before "The Mauler" can take on "Bones" (or even get close to doing so), he'll have to first get through mixed martial arts (MMA) legend Mauricio Rua at UFC on FOX 5 in Seattle, Washington on Dec. 8, 2012.
For Gustafasson, it'll be a chance to challenge one of his boyhood heroes:
"It's the toughest fight of my career so far. He's a tough guy. 'Shogun' is 'Shogun.' I've looked up to him since I was a kid. I followed him in MMA. I can't wait."
The game plan is simple: Stay out of close distance exchanges and try and stop "Shogun" from turning the fight into a brawl:
"I will try to stay on the outside and try to use my range and my footwork. You never know in a fight. Sometimes, you have to do things differently, take the initiative and adapt. It's going to be a great fight for the fans. That's for sure."
At 14-1, Gustafsson is one of the key up-and-comers who constantly finds his name in conversations pertaining to the title mix.
He's aware of the chatter, but he's doing his best not to let it go to his head, knowing full well that Rua is not a fighter anyone should be looking past:
"Like everyone always says. I'm trying to take it one fight at a time. I'm trying to be focused on 'Shogun' right now. Everything has gone well. I'm happy. There was a lot of pressure, fighting on my home ground, but it was a good experience."
At the end of the day, it's "title or bust" for the six foot five inch tall, 205 pounder. He's not overlooking his task at UFC on FOX 5, but Jon Jones is always on his mind:
"I want to fight the champion. That's my main goal: to bring the belt back to Sweden. That's what I want to do, but I never look past any opponent. When I beat 'Shogun,' I will be more than prepared to fight for a title. That's what I want to do."
Should Gustafsson be able to take care of business against "Shogun" in December, it certainly doesn't guarantee him a title shot, but it should at least put him near the front of the line.
What say you, Maniacs? Can Gustafsson take down a legend and earn himself a possible crack at "Bones'" belt? Or will "Shogun" prove he's still a contender that deserves to be taken seriously?