Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (18-4) and Alexander Gustafsson (16-2) have been going back and forth in interviews and on social media lately. Johnson is a top class fighter with a long history in the UFC, however he did leave the promotion after a submission loss to Vitor Belfort at UFC 142. He went on to fight for Titan FC then WSOF, finally returning to the UFC with an impressive 6-0 (record since his clash with Belfort) to fight Phil Davis, whom he overwhelmed with a unanimous decision victory. Since his last win, against Antônio Rogério Nogueira at UFC on Fox: Lawler vs Brown, he’s been ranked 5th in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. No doubt a contender for the title, Johnson is on a victory train and he doesn’t want to get off any time soon.
Gustafsson, on the other hand, has been struggling with a controversial decision that gave kept the title in the hands of Jon Jones at UFC 165. The Swedish 205 lb contender has been keeping his eyes fixed on the UFC light heavyweight title with an intense desire to prove to everyone that he, indeed, is the true champion. And though Jones is scheduled to defend his title from Daniel Cormier in early Spring of 2015 there’s no doubt that, regardless the outcome, Gustafsson wants another shot at Jones specifically.
Ranked 2nd in the UFC light heavyweight division (Johnson feels like) Gustafsson’s been “acting” as if he’s ranked 1st. First declining to respond to an offer for a fight with “Rumble” then coming back with a lukewarm response “tentatively” agreeing to a contest. In his frustration, Johnson opened up on The MMA Hour regarding his feelings on the matter and his perception of Gustafsson’s attitude.
“I just wanted a yes or a no to the fight,” Johnson told Ariel Helwani. “With him not responding, it just pretty much pissed me off.”
“Gus gave Jon (Jones) a run for his money, the toughest fight Jon has ever had. Everybody either has a fight lined up or they’re injured, and the only people in the top-five who don’t have a fight are me and Gus, so why not just do it for the fans and just see what we can do? Gus says he’s one of the best in the world, and I feel like I’m one of the best in the world, so why not just do it and see what happens?”
“That’s what happens when you go in there and fight your ass off. But don’t try to belittle me. You didn’t win; don’t make it seem like you’re the champion and you can say those type of things. That kind of got to me, like he’s just the head honcho when he isn’t, he lost to the head honcho.”
“I’ll still take it, but I want to fight again before the year is over with,” Johnson said. “I don’t care who it is. They can put me in the prelims for all I care, I just want to fight again. I just want to stay active, I want to stay busy. Each fight, you can’t do anything but get better and better, so that’s what I want to do.”
“I’d definitely take my chances,” Johnson said. “I have that much confidence in myself.”
With little else going on for the next 3 to 4 months in the Light Heavyweight division, a contest between Johnson and Gustafsson could be just what the UFC needs to keep the impending Jones vs Cormier title bout scheduled for 2015, fresh on the minds of fans and spectators.