Fighting Again, Why Did Alexander Gustafsson Retire In 2019?

In the world of MMA, anything can happen. In this sense, nobody is fully done with the sport when they say they are. That is exactly the mindset of Alexander Gustafsson as he returns to the octagon after a year away from it.

The 33-year-old Swedish fighter is set to face off against Fabricio Werdum this Saturday, July 25. Competing on “Fight Island”, Gustafsson (18-6) came out of retirement and decided to go from light-heavyweight to heavyweight. The former UFC Light Heavyweight Title contender will test himself against a former UFC Heavyweight Champion in Werdum.

“I felt it was the right time for me to move up one weight class,” Gustafsson stated to MMA Fighting. “Cause I’m pretty heavy, pretty big. I felt really good to step up one weight class and try out the heavyweight division.

“Then I got the fight with Werdum and this is something that fits me very well and I’m very excited about. I’m just stronger. I’m stronger than I usually was in light heavyweight.”

Gustafsson turned professional in 2007 and joined the UFC in 2009. Following a loss in his second UFC fight, he would win six in a row, earning the right to face UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones at UFC 165 in 2013. The bout ended up becoming one of the best in UFC history, as it was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. After that fight, Gustafsson went 3-4 in his last seven.

In his last two bouts he lost to Jones again via TKO at UFC 232 in 2018 for the title, and against Anthony Smith in 2019 via submission. In front of his hometown fans in Sweden, Gustafsson called it a career, saying, “The show is over, guys.”

“It was an emotional moment. Nothing else,” Gustafsson went on to say. “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.

“It was a tough night and my emotions and thoughts were just chaos in my head.”

When it came to coming out of retirement, Gustafsson knew he couldn’t stay away.

“After a month or two at home about that,” Gustafsson stated regarding how long it took for him to realize he wanted to fight again. “I then I want to go back to training and I can’t train without motivation so now I’m here.”

Werdum (23-9-1) made his MMA debut in 2002. The 42-year-old fought for PRIDE before joining the UFC in 2007. He beat Mark Hunt in 2015 for the interim UFC Heavyweight Title and beat Cain Velasquez to unify the title at UFC 188. After losing the title to Stipe Miocic, Werdum has gone 3-3. Currently on a two-fight losing streak, Werdum last fought in May, losing to Aleksei Oleinik at UFC 249.

Right now, Gustafsson is living in the moment. Appearing back and better than ever, Gustafsson isn’t going anywhere.

“Right now, it’s just one fight at a time,” said Gustafsson. “I’m fighting Werdum, I’ll beat Werdum on Saturday then we’ll take the next one. I’m here to stay.”

Gustafsson v. Werdum will take place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main event will be Robert Whittaker v. Darren Till.  

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