Ask any fight fan to name upstart contenders who could potentially dethrone UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and the list you hear back will inevitably be rather short. No doubt it will include some combination of Glover Teixeira, Phil Davis, and Alexander Gustafsson, simply because those are the three remaining men under the age of 40 to sniff the top-10 without having already been decimated by the young champ.
Each match-up carries with it a sense of intrigue, though it's the final name on that list, Gustafsson, who may get the first crack. The lanky Swede likely needs only to defeat Shogun Rua at next weekend's FOX event to secure a shot at the title, and he knows it.
"I want to fight the champ after this fight," Gustafsson declared on FUEL TV's UFC Insider. "That's what I want to do. My focus is on Shogun, 100-percent, but when I win the fight, I want to fight for the belt."
Despite being just 25 years old, Gustafsson has been brought along slowly in the UFC, gradually working his way up the ladder on the strength of five straight wins, each more impressive than the last. All the while he has carefully avoided pronouncements to the throne, maintaining he would rather gather as much experience as possible before making a serious run at Jones.
However, now that Gustafsson is on the precipice of a title shot, he has allowed himself to glance ahead with full confidence at what may soon be a reality.
"It's really good feedback when people mention me in those terms with Jon Jones," concluded Gustafsson.
"When it comes to a title fight, if I will fight Jon Jones one day, if he's still the champ, I will be more than ready for it. I will take home the belt. There's no question about it."
6 MUST-READ STORIES
Gustafsson: 'No question' I beat Jones. When asked about his chances against Jon Jones, light heavyweight prospect Alexander Gustafsson responded that when the time came, there was "no question" he would defeat the young champion.
St-Pierre draws big PPV numbers. Headlined by Georges St-Pierre -- Dana White's personally appointed "king of pay-per-view" -- UFC 154 drew an estimated 750,000 to 800,000 pay-per-view buys.
Couture: Sonnen vs. Hendo could happen. Speaking with CageJunkies, UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture said he believes Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson would be open to fighting each other despite their friendship, citing the pair having wrestled against each other numerous times in Olympic tryouts.
Gracie not surprised by Zahabi comments. When asked about comments Georges St-Pierre's trainer made declaring Nick Diaz the true No. 1 contender, Cesar Gracie acknowledged he wasn't surprised: "It's the fight the fans want to see and that's the bottom line. From a career perspective, Nick Diaz is a much more famous fighter and has bigger fights than anyone else."
Rousey on Rome. In an interview with Jim Rome, women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey discussed recent comments from Georges St. Pierre about not enjoying seeing women fight while rebuffing the myth of abstaining from sex prior to competition. Said Rousey: "For girls it raises your testosterone, so I try to have as much sex as possible before I fight actually." (Check out the video here.)
With its simplicity, this might be the best thing you see all morning.
Agree or disagree with B.J. Penn's top-5 all-time list?
This is beyond fascinating: a mini-documentary highlighting 22-year-old Cung Le destroying the competition on the way to the 1994 US San Shou Nationals championship. I highly recommend you check this out.
Your obligatory bizarre commercial from Brazil:
Prebek, we love you.
I have a soft spot for this next one. Peter Santha's pet project is pretty radical: he draws UFC fighters as retro SNES-style game characters. Check out the complete gallery here.
AND THE HITS KEEP COMING
Lavar Johnson is out of the FOX prelims with a pulled groin. He was fighting Brendan Shcaub.— Dana White (@danawhite) November 30, 2012
Frustrated would be an understatement..back to the gym— Brendan Schaub (@BrendanSchaub) November 30, 2012
ALL AMERICAN UPDATE
Surgery went perfect.On my way back to Long Island now.Had a torn labrum and rotator cuff, AC joint seperation and slight tear in ligament— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) November 29, 2012
I will be 90 percent in three months and 100 in 4!— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) November 29, 2012
I am gonna make it my life mission to come back better then ever. Can't wait to get back in that @ufc octagon— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) November 29, 2012
BIG COUNTRY STILL TRUCKIN'
Roy Nelson (@roynelsonmma) November 28, 2012
THE OLD DAYS
@philmrwonderful lol yeah I actually think we did in cadets.I was a sophomore u were a freshman. Saw bracket after being ruined in sandy.— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) November 29, 2012
@philmrwonderful u gotta remember that real tough ny kid ;)— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) November 29, 2012
@philmrwonderful haha how funny is that. I totally forgot about that till that bracket was floating around my garage during hurricane.— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) November 29, 2012
MUSINGS FROM THE MMA WORLD, VOLUME 1
So awesome when I get FB messages from random girls who met me 6 years ago when they were 14 and at a fight or w/e & now they're 20 & hott!— War Machine (@WarMachine170) November 29, 2012
MUSINGS FROM THE MMA WORLD, VOLUME 2
If I keep my wife knocked up at all times I have a permanent designated driver. Genius— Forrest Griffin (@ForrestGriffin) November 29, 2012
Announced yesterday (Thursday, November 29, 2012):
- UFC on FOX 5: Lavar Johnson (17-6) out with injury, Brendan Schaub (8-3) removed from card
- UFC on FX 6: Brad Scott (8-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (9-2) for TUF: The Smashes welterweight final
- Strikeforce Champions: Josh Barnett (31-6) vs. Nandor Guelmino (11-3-1)
- Strikeforce Champions: Lorenz Larkin (13-0, 1 NC) vs. Ronaldo "Jacare" da Souza (16-3, 1 NC)
- Strikeforce Champions: Roger Gracie (5-1) vs. Anthony Smith (17-8)
FANPOST OF THE DAY
Today's Fanpost of the Day comes from Florence Romeo, who wants you to know: UFC President Dana White Is Not Your Friend
"...Mickey Mantle would never pay our rent." - A Bronx Tale
And neither would Dana White for that matter.
Nor would I want him to; I would never hear the end of how each George Washington on every bill was in my bank account because he stepped up, he volunteered...he spoke up like a real president.
But then again, what am I to expect?
Dana White is not my friend. We work together...nothing more and nothing less. He works to make money. I work to watch fights. There is and should never be an implication of a bond between us.
So why is it that mixed martial arts fans consistently seem perplexed when good 'ol D.W. doesn't seem to have "my opinion" or "my concerns" in mind during decision-making time?
Is it the fact that he's a fight fan, just like us?
Is it his demeanor, reminiscent of a "cool" uncle?
Is it a Twitter account, where you can personally contact the president of the UFC?
Is it his free-ticket giveaways, his behind-the-scenes videos, his cursing, his hugs, his high-fives?
Now by no means do I know Dana White personally-I've never met him-but I do know one thing about the man: He is a promoter. White is a bona fide, Wild West, medicine salesman.
He is Bob Arum sans the racism.
He is Gary Shaw without a sweat-soaked track suit.
So when my computer screen is graced with headlines about Chael Sonnen and title shots; or White's new-found acceptance of Alistair Overeem; or White's claims that an injury doesn't warrant stepping out of a bout, I am not shocked.
Because, bottom line, despite White's overzealous attempts at separating himself from the aforementioned promoters, he has one major similarity with all of them: He wants to make money...deserved title shots be damned, PED-testing be damned, fan's apprehension be damned...he must make money.
Because in the end, while White won't pay my bills, he's waiting for all of us to help pay his.
Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in Monday's column.