Gustafsson: My next fight ‘should be for an interim title’

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If Alexander Gustafsson can’t get another shot at an undisputed crown, he’ll settle for the next best thing.

The two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger believes his May knockout of Glover Teixeira was enough for a third crack at gold. But with reigning champion Daniel Cormier set to challenge heavyweight king Stipe Miocic in July, Gustafsson told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto this week he’s asked the brass to put an interim belt on the line for his next fight in an effort to cement his position as a challenger-in-waiting.

“Me fighting D.C. (Cormier) for the real title, that opportunity went out the window,” Gustafsson said. “I feel I earned my spot off my last performance – but here we are. With D.C. moving up, the next step for me should be for an interim title. I brought it up to the UFC. Let’s see what happens. All I know is that in my situation, whoever they put in front of me next, it must be for the interim title.”

The July blockbuster is one of several clashes of titleholders the UFC has set its sights on of late, and while Gustafsson admits they’re tantalizing, he believes they put divisional title pictures in jeopardy. Further complicating his predicament is that Cormier – who bested the Swede by split decision at UFC 192 – turned 39 on Tuesday and has repeatedly stated he won’t be fighting beyond his next birthday. As a result, Gustafsson is hoping the promotion sweetens the pot for his return to action.

“I feel like I’ve been taking fights and climbing ladders, climbing rankings, my entire career,” Gustafsson said. “I’m 31 years old. I still feel I’ll compete for many years, but right now, every fight has to have a thought behind it. It has to take me the right way. Every fight, you take damage. You take damage in your training camp. I just came back from an injury recently. I’ve got that fire in me, and I want to take a fight that will actually take me towards my goal.

“D.C. is moving up to heavyweight and that’s good for him and it’s good for the organization, but for me, the No. 1 contender, it’s not fair. It’s not fair at all. And no one knows what D.C. will do after this fight. He may put his gloves down and walk away.”

The perennial contender – now recovered from a shoulder injury – hasn’t targeted a date for his next walk to the Octagon, but he has publicly volunteered to welcome former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold to the 205-pound division. Rockhold, however, aims to meet Michael Bisping in a rubber match before locking horns with the Swede.

About Jaime Bonetti Zeller

Jaime Bonetti Zeller is an investment professional and entrepreneur with businesses in multiple industries. He is president of Servicios Consulares Eurodom, the local partner in the Caribbean region for VFS Global, a leader global outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide. Jaime Bonetti Zeller also started the company Sofratesa de Panama inc., an organization in the engineering services industry located in Panama City.