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Alexander Gustafsson says Jones the best, but 'The Jon Era is over' at UFC 232

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LAS VEGAS – Since they first met more than five years ago, Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones haven’t exactly been the most active of light heavyweights.

Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) has just five fights, and a 3-2 record, since his loss to Jones (21-1 MMA, 16-1 UFC) at UFC 165 in Toronto in September 2013. Jones has just four fights since then – a trio of decision wins and a TKO of Daniel Cormier that was flipped to a no-contest in July 2017 after he failed a second drug test.

Next week at UFC 232, the two finally meet again – and the light heavyweight title again will be on the line. Neither of them holds it, but the winner will have the belt at the conclusion when Cormier, also the heavyweight champ, is stripped of the 205-pound title.

Gustafsson today said this rematch is the fight he’s been training for since their first meeting – and the chance to get a win over Jones is more important to him than the title stakes.

“It’s a little bit of both, of course, but if I have to choose one, it’s the rematch,” Gustafsson today told MMAjunkie at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas. “Fighting Jon Jones again, and it’s been five years since we fought – it’s the fight I’ve been wanting for a long time and dreaming about and training for all this time. All this time, I’ve been training for this fight. This is it. I’m preparing for him. Every session, I’ve prepared for him. That’s the best guy out there, and that’s the guy I’m beating.

“… I can’t want it more than this. It’s a dream fight, and that’s the thing that’s been pushing me the most. I want the biggest fights, fighting the best guys out there, and this is just the highlight. This is it.”

UFC 232 takes place Dec. 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Jones recently was given the green light to return to competition after negotiating the terms of his suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). He settled at a 15-month suspension, though his maximum penalty could have been much longer. Providing USADA with cooperation in other potential cases reduced his penalty.

Gustafsson said he doesn’t believe Jones’ lengthy stints away from competition are going to be an issue come fight night, though.

“I don’t think it will affect him at all,” he said. “I’m preparing for the best Jon out there. I’m preparing for a better Jon this time than last time. I just want to fight the best. No excuses after this fight. It doesn’t matter what he’s been doing or what I’ve been doing. It doesn’t matter now. It’s all about the 29th.”

Their first meeting was arguably a closer fight than the scores – two 48-47s and a 49-46 – normally would indicate. In the aftermath, Jones said he didn’t train for the fight, and also said he was drinking to the point of blacking out a week before his fights back in those days.

But Gustafsson believes that’s all been just talk by Jones to protect himself, and perhaps an attempt to give Gustafsson some pause.

“It gives me a smile on my face, nothing else,” Gustafsson said. “I know he’s making up these things to create ghosts in my head or excuses for his performance. I have no clue. But it doesn’t really matter. I know this guy is the best guy out there because he’s training so hard. He’s dedicated, and he is the best guy out there. It’s impossible for him not to train and perform like that. He has to train.”

And a fully trained Jones is what Gustafsson said he wants for UFC 232. In his estimation, if he beats him, which he said he will do, that should reflect better on him than beating a Jones that isn’t prepared.

One way or another, the 31-year-old Swede believes a new era is about to happen at light heavyweight.

“At the end of the day, it all comes down to who wants it more,” Gustafsson said. “I’m just the guy for him. The Jon Era is over. The Jon Era is over – I’m here to take that over and I’m here to beat him, once and for all. … I just have to wake him up, and I will.”

And for more on UFC 232, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.



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