The last time top UFC light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson headlined a card in his native Sweden, things did not go as planned.
On the verge of a title shot and with 30,000 raucous supporters screaming for his success, Gustafsson was knocked cold by Anthony Johnson just 2:15 into their January 2015 bout at Tele2 Arena in Stockholm.
It’s not a night Gustafsson reflects on very often.
“I don’t look back too much,” he told UFC.com this week as he prepares to fight in Stockholm for the first time since the devastating loss. “I think everything has a reason and I believe that that’s how you develop as a person. I feel like all the losses and fails and my successes go hand-in-hand and you just have to grow from everything and take it what it is and that’s what I’ve been doing — take it what it is and make the best of it from now on.”
His next opportunity to move forward will come against Glover Teixeira in the main event of UFC Fight Night 109 at the smaller Ericsson Globe in Stockholm.
Gustafsson isn’t at all concerned about returning home to fight again despite the result on his last trip.
“I feel comfortable,” he said. “I feel motivated. I’m not nervous. I don’t feel any pressure at all. It’s just another day at the office.”
There is motivation beyond just redeeming himself in front of his home fans. Gustafsson has come up just short in two title opportunities in the UFC, losing close decisions in championship bouts against both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.
Jones and Cormier will fight for the belt in July and Gustafsson could very possibly be in the mix to fight the winner with an impressive performance.
Gustafsson insists Teixeira has his full attention.
“I’ve been preparing, training with the best guys in the world,” he said. “I’ve had the best camp so far and I feel super-excited for it and I can’t wait. I can’t wait to fight him.”
Gustafsson is coming off a very workmanlike win over Jan Blachowicz in September. While it was far from a spectacular effort, Gustafsson was pleased to snap a two-fight losing streak after losing to both Johnson and Cormier.
“Jan Blachowicz is a very tough opponent and I felt it was a good way for me to just test myself and I did great,” he said. “I won the fight and now I’m here and I’m about to fight the No. 2 ranked guy in the world.”
The bout will headline a rare Sunday UFC card on Fox Sports 1.
Gustafsson leads a crop of several Swedish fighters who will be looking to leave the fans in more of a celebratory mood than after he lost to Johnson.
“I’m feeling good,” Gustafsson said. “It’s a highlight for me to fight in my hometown every time. It’s an amazing feeling and a big motivation for me.”
He could also see a new contender emerge in his weight class as rising light heavyweight prospects Volkan Oezdemir and Misha Cirkunov meet on the main card, which airs at 10 a.m.
Four fights from the preliminary card will also air live on the network at 8 a.m.
Contact Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.