It’s hard to argue that anyone has done more for swedish MMA than Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson. The MMA icon made his UFC debut over ten years ago, and quickly became the first real swedish star in the promotion.
But the last few years has not been the best for “The Mauler”, who has lost his last three showings. After a brief retirement, he tried his wings at heavyweight in a comeback fight this summer, but fell short against the former champ Fabricio Werdum, who finished him by submission in the first round.
“My last fights has not gone very well, I’ve lost some fights. That’s the name of this game, you have to win stay at the top. Things change quickly in this sport,” Gustafsson says to Frontkick.online.
“The last years has been rough for me”
At 33, Gustafsson is still considered to be in his prime years. But when asked about the future, the swede admits that he recently has been considering if his best days are behind him.
“We’ll see what happens with my own so called career. I’m still relatively young, but the last years has been rough on me. Something has not been quite right, because I know for a fact that i can perform against the best. I don’t know what – if I did, I would have fixed it along the way. But I’ve been doing this for a very long time. At some point, you start to take things for granted and fall into old habits,” he continues.
Gustafsson has been in the public spotlight for many years due to his status as the biggest star in swedish MMA.
But something changed in 2020. His clubmate and training partner Khamzat Chimaev rose to superstardom after his UFC debut this summer, and has taken Gustafssons place as the most hyped swedish fighter internationally after his subsequent victories in the promotion.
By comparison, Chimaev has over a million followers on Instagram, while Gustafsson sits at 700 000.
For “The Mauler”, the change has been a welcome one – in some ways.
“There’s a big difference today comepared to a couple a years ago. After my loss to Werdum, things has calmed down, and it’s been really nice to be honest. I’ve not always enjoyed being in the centre of attention,” he says.
“I get to have some peace of mind, it’s been many years now,” he continues.
“Of course I’m a competitor, and that counts for everything i do. Obviously I have had some thoughts like ‘What’s going on here? Is Khamzat starting to surpass me?'”, he adds jokingly.
“I’ve had my little run”
At this point it might sound like Alexander Gustafsson is closing in on retirement after a long and illustrious career. But that’s not quite the situation. His love for the sport remains, but some of the rougher aspects – such as long training camps before a fight – does not appeal to him in the same way anymore.
“I owe everything i have to sport. I haven’t lost any love for the sport. But right now we have people here at the club that are in the same spot I was in ten years ago. I would like to say that I’ve had my little run, and now it’s time for the next generation”, Gustafsson says.
“What the hell. The sport continues to grow, and you have to grow along with it. It doesn’t matter if you have the best coach or training partners in the world. It has to come from within. Otherwise you’ll fall behind. You have to enjoy it too. A training camp is not easy. You get sick just thinking about it, it’s that rough, he continues.
A few months ago, Gustafsson told us he wanted a fight as soon as possible.
When will we see you compete again?
“Soon. That’s all that I’ll tell you”, he says with a smile.
Watch the full interview below (In swedish):
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