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Gustafsson proud of standing

Alex Gustafsson: Expected to be too strong for home favourite Jimi Manuwa

Alex Gustafsson: Expected to be too strong for home favourite Jimi Manuwa

Alex Gustafsson says he is “proud” to be considered one of the UFC’s most elite fighters ahead of fighting at UFC Fight Night on Saturday in London’s O2 Arena against Jimi Manuwa.

The Swede is an overwhelming favourite to dispose of hometown underdog Manuwa before a rematch of the jaw-dropping light-heavyweight title fight with Jon Jones where he built his reputation.

“Sometimes, you know, I look back and feel good with everything I’ve done,” Gustafsson told Sky Sports.

“I’m proud of myself to be where I am today but it comes with hard work.”

Championship rematch

His decision loss to Jones has a place in history as one of the most thrilling UFC fights largely due to the Swede dominating large periods against a champion unaccustomed to adversity.

A successful night in London this weekend is likely to set up one of the most anticipated rematches in the organisation’s history – “I’m hoping,” said Gustafsson.

“I feel that I am the title contender which I will show. Absolutely. I want to fight again for the belt as soon as possible.”

But the 27-year-old from Arboga won’t treat Saturday’s obstacle Manuwa lightly.

“He’s unbeaten so he’s very dangerous. I have to be on top of my game which I will be. I think that makes him stronger. He’s a very confident fighter and he believes in his own game.

“First of all, he’s another explosive guy, good striking. He hits very hard, everybody knows that, he has good knees and good kicks. He’s a very athletic guy.”

But Gustafsson – backed by a significant yellow and blue clad army of Swedes – promises to hand Manuwa his first loss.

“I would say I have an advantage in my techniques. In my overall game. I think I’m a better fighter overall and I think I have more techniques – more weapons – than he has that I can use.”

Rebirth

While Manuwa only started training five years ago, Gustafsson has a boxing background and three times more UFC fights despite a seven-year age discrepancy. But before fighting found them at different stages of adulthood, their troubled youths ran parallels.

“Fighting has made me who I am today. I think it just came naturally. I like martial arts. I like to train hard. I like to push myself to new records and test myself.

“I don’t know who I would be without the fighting. It’s who I am.”