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Alexander Gustafsson says beating Jon Jones at UFC 232 will ‘change my life’: ‘I will be the king of the world’

Alexander Gustafsson has publicly called for a rematch with Jon Jones ever since the dust first settled on their classic battle at UFC 165.

Now, more than five years, the opportunity he’s long wanted has finally arrived.

Gustafsson is slated to rematch Jones for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas at UFC 232. It’s a massive spot for the Swede — a chance to avenge his career-defining loss to Jones, and a second shot at etching his name into the history books against the light heavyweight legend. No man has ever truly defeated Jones, but Gustafsson came the closest of anyone when the two rivals collided in 2013, and “The Mauler” isn’t ready to let another shot at greatness slip through his fingers.

“It’s just so much excitement,” Gustafsson said recently on The MMA Hour. “It’s so much motivation. I got this fire in me and I’m just eager to get in there again. It’s been a long time for me since I fought, and like I said, I can’t ask for more. I can’t find a better way to get back in that Octagon than fighting Jon for the belt. It’s just massive, man. It’s massive.”

Gustafsson, 31, has watched from afar as Jones has effectively torpedoed his own career in the years since UFC 165. As a result of two PED suspensions and a controversial hit-and-run accident, Jones was twice stripped of the UFC light heavyweight title and has been limited to just one fight a year since his victory over Gustafsson.

But the last time the MMA world saw “Bones” standing inside an Octagon, he scored a spectacular head-kick knockout of Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 — a result that was subsequently overturned into a no contest because of a positive drug test — so Gustafsson knows that his rival’s long layoffs haven’t diminished the skill set that makes Jones an all-time great fighter.

“He’s a really talented fighter. He’s a very smart fighter,” Gustafsson said. “Whatever Jon does, in that Octagon he has a strategy and he’s a very smart fighter with a good eye, so you can’t relax. You can’t relax with this guy. You can’t even give him an inch. You have be on your toes the whole fight, you have to be ready the whole fight. So, that’s how I see Jon now. Jon has just been so impressive, that’s why he never lost. So, he is just that guy. He’s been beating everybody, so we all know how he is and how he’s been.

“He’s the best fighter in the world. For me, he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter, so like I said, I can’t relax for a second when I fight him.”

There is no hesitation in Gustafsson’s voice: Despite Jones’ many indiscretions, Gustafsson still considers the former light heavyweight champion to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. And if he defeats Jones at UFC 232, Gustafsson believes the win will give him that very same distinction as the world’s best.

“One-hundred percent,” Gustafsson said.

“And when I beat this guy, it’s going to biggest thing ever, and it’s going to be a highlight in my career and it’s going to change my life, so that’s my motivation.”

Like Jones, Gustafsson has overcome his own share of trials and tribulations since the two first met at UFC 165. Injuries and various out-of-the-cage circumstances have limited Gustafsson to just five Octagon appearances in the five years since his loss to Jones. “The Mauler” carries a 3-2 record over that span, a run highlighted by recent back-to-back wins over Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira. Gustafsson also had his second crack at UFC gold in 2015 when he unsuccessfully challenged Cormier for the light heavyweight title.

Gustafsson lost another heart-breaker of a decision to Cormier in that UFC 192 title matchup, but he also learned lessons that he will now carry into his third stab at the belt.

“Just experience,” Gustafsson said. “Just experience doing five rounds at a very high pace. That’s what I take, and I’m feeling confident. I feel my conditioning is one of my strengths. I feel like five rounds is nothing for me. So, I’m just going to win and I’m going to push like nobody’s pushed Jon before. I’m going make him be on his heels. I’m going to push him and he’s going to be tested. His conditioning is going to be tested, for sure.”

If Gustafsson is victorious at UFC 232, he will single-handedly change the course of light heavyweight history forever.

It will become the defining performance of his career. And as the lead-up to Dec. 29 begins, Gustafsson has allowed himself to daydream about what that moment will feel like when everything comes full circle at the T-Mobile Arena.

“I have, and all I can say is words can’t describe that feeling,” Gustafsson said. “And I don’t even know how it will feel — I just know I will just be the king of the world. That’s it. I will be the king of the world. Nothing more, nothing less, and we’ll take it from there.”

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