Alexander Gustafsson wasn’t really ready to retire from fighting when he called it a career last June following a loss to Anthony Smith.
According to the three-time UFC title challenger, the heartbreak of losing in front of a home audience in Sweden—his second defeat in a row overall—just led to the outburst that he was hanging up his gloves for good.
Now Gustafsson can readily admit he regrets that decision and that ultimately the moment just got the better of him that night.
“It was an emotional moment. Nothing else,” Gustafsson told MMA Fighting on Tuesday during the UFC on ESPN 14 media day. “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.”
As he prepares to make his return at UFC on ESPN 14 this weekend, Gustafsson actually knew quite a long time ago that he was going to fight again.
“After a month or two at home about that. I then I want to go back to training and I can’t train without motivation so now I’m here,” Gustafsson said.
While his entire UFC career has been spent at 205 pounds, Gustafsson’s first fight back in over a year will actually take place in the heavyweight division when he faces off with former champion Fabricio Werdum on Saturday night.
Weight cutting was always viewed as the magical recipe for winning in MMA but lately more and more fighters are actually moving up to bigger divisions and finding success.
Gustafsson’s former foe Daniel Cormier moved up to heavyweight and became champion. Several other light heavyweight contenders have tested the same waters in recent months.
For his part, Gustafsson can’t say for certain if fighting at heavyweight is permanent but he definitely feels the difference now that he’s not preparing for a cut down to 205 pounds.
“I felt it was the right time for me to move up one weight class,” Gustafsson explained. “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.”
Facing off against a former champion in his heavyweight debut is a daunting task but that’s exactly what Gustafsson wanted when making his return to the UFC.
He’s not making any wild predictions about the future as Gustafsson plans to reassess his divisional plans after clashing with a legit heavyweight this weekend.
“I’ll challenge myself and see how it goes,” Gustafsson said. “I will win of course but let’s see how I feel about it.
“He’s a legend of the sport. He’s a former champion. It’s a perfect way to come back. I’ll beat Werdum on Saturday and then we’ll take the next one.”
In the past, Gustafsson’s entire career surrounded the chase for UFC gold after he engaged in one of the greatest fights in history during a five-round battle with Jon Jones back in 2013. Sadly he never accomplished that goal despite two more attempts in a rematch with Jones and a fight with Cormier in 2015.
As he prepares to fight at heavyweight in the UFC for the first time, Gustafsson isn’t thinking about title shots right now. He’s just happy to be back and he’s not going anywhere this time around.
“I’m here to win my fights,” Gustafsson said. “Just take it from there. Where I’m in a situation where I can touch the belt, then we’ll go for the belt.
“Right now, it’s just one fight at a time. I’m fighting Werdum, I’ll beat Werdum on Saturday then we’ll take the next one. I’m here to stay.”