At 14-1, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson has earned the right to be in the conversation regarding the top 205 pounders in the mixed martial arts (MMA) universe.
"Shogun" is a fighter who Gustafsson has watched and studied for years, and during an interview with FUEL TV's Jon Anik, he stated that he's honored to finally get the chance to actually get in the Octagon and measure himself against one of the all-time greats of the sport:
"He's a fighter I've been looking up to since I was young and getting started in my career. So, it's a good opportunity for me to show the world I belong with the top guys in my division. So, yeah, I'm really looking forward to it."
Should Gustafsson be able to notch a big win over "Shogun," he will likely find himself knocking on the door of a title shot, but another fighter, Chael Sonnen, will get a crack at "Bones'" belt, first.
Some feel that Sonnen's title shot is unmerited, earned mainly by his prolific gift of gab and trash talk. Gustafsson isn't necessarily thrilled with the way Sonnen was selected for the opportunity, but he's not taking it personally, and he wishes Chael all the best:
"First of all, I'm happy for him. He has a chance, and I hope he does everything he can to make something come out of it. At the same time, that's our goal: to take the belt. That's why we do this, every day. We wake up in the morning and train, two times a day. So, it sucks a little bit that it went that way, but I'm happy for Chael. He's a good guy, and I hope he does everything he can."
For now, a fight between Gustafsson and Jones will remain as mere speculation, but the lanky Swede is flattered to have so many people mentioning him as being worthy of a shot at the belt.
However, don't mistake his humility for weaknesses or a lack of self-confidence. Gustafsson is not looking past "Shogun," but he believes that if he ever does get a chance to climb into the cage with Jones, he will absolutely emerge victorious:
"It's really good feedback when people mention me in those terms with Jon Jones. Right now, it's just 'Shogun' for me. That's my only focus. I don't look past any opponent, and he's absolutely my most dangerous opponent, so far. If it comes to a title fight, and I do fight Jon Jones -- if he's still the champion -- I will be motivated for that fight. I will take home the belt. There's no question about it."