Gegard Mousasi has decided he needs a little more time to achieve his goals in fighting.
Mousasi (33-3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who meets Alexander Gustafsson (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) next week at UFC on FUEL TV 9, told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that he’s pushed back his planned retirement from 30 to 35.
“I thought 30 would be enough, but I don’t think it’s going to be,” he said.
The 27-year-old Mousasi always has been ambitious. When he set his planned retirement date, it was January 2010, and he was the Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion. He hadn’t lost in three years and 15 fights. He wanted to win the DREAM light-heavyweight title, move to heavyweight, and meet current UFC 205-pound champion Jon Jones.
One of those things happened.
An April 2010 loss to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal provided him a stark reality check (and took his belt). A draw one year later with Keith Jardine scratched a chance to win it back. Then he tore his ACL and spent all of this past year on the sidelines.
“It was difficult because you have to postpone your goals,” Mousasi said. “You can’t do anything; you’re just waiting. It’s not up to you. It’s difficult, but what can you do? That’s life.”
Mousasi, though, is resilient as well as driven. Despite his injury, the Dutch-Armenian fighter has bounced back from the Jardine fight with three straight wins, and on April 6, he gets a chance to derail the title hopes of redhot prospect Gustafsson, who has won six straight. The pair headlines UFC on FUEL TV 9 at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm. (The event’s main card airs live on FUEL TV following prelims on Facebook.)
“He was one of the guys I wanted to fight along with (Mauricio) ‘Shogun’ (Rua) and (Lyoto) Machida,” Mousasi said. “Those were exciting matchups that fans would like to see, and they were the No. 1 guys.”
Mousasi could throw the light-heavyweight division for a loop if he manages to beat Gustafsson, who would take a place behind No. 1 contender Machida if successful next week. Current betting lines have Gustafsson a 2-to-1 favorite.
“I’m the underdog, but I don’t care,” Mousasi said. “It’s a fight. Of course, he’s fought a lot more in the UFC, so he’s the favorite. I understand that. I hope (they are overlooking me). They don’t expect anything for me, so I cannot disappoint anybody.
“I like this position much better. I don’t have any pressure.”
In addition to rethinking his time in the sport, Mousasi also has changed the way he trains to maximize his remaining years.
“I think I’m training more professionally,” he said. “Back then, I would just spar. It wasn’t like I was evolving. Now, I have good coaches, and I’m getting better. I’m more confident than I was in the past.”
Confidence is certainly a necessity when you’re chasing a UFC title. An excess of that led him to dreams of a run at heavyweight and even a bid for the 2012 Olympics. But he’s thinking smaller at the moment, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
He still has a chance at meeting Jones.
“This is a big opportunity for me fighting a guy like Gustafsson,” Mousasi said. “I want to take full advantage of that. I always thought I would finish my career in the UFC, and that’s the plan.”
For more on UFC on FUEL TV 9, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.