Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson - Photo by MMAnytt

Alexander Gustafsson Would Move to Heavyweight Before Fighting Ilir Latifi or Jimi Manuwa

Alexander Gustafsson has no desire to face his teammates despite the fact that two of them are ranked just below him at light heavyweight.

It’s been well documented that the light heavyweight division in the UFC isn’t the deepest weight class in the sport.

As talented as the top five or six fighters in the world are at 205-pounds, the pool gets much shallower beyond that list. This problem is also compounded by the fact that three of the top five fighters in the world at light heavyweight are all teammates.

Former title contender Alexander Gustafsson currently occupies the No. 1 position in the UFC rankings with Jimi Manuwa at No. 4 and Ilir Latifi now joining them at No. 5 after his submission win over Ovince Saint-Preux this past weekend in Orlando.

While those rankings speak volumes about the All-Star team in Swedon, it also creates a lot of problems when it comes time to start matchmaking and nobody wants to face off with a teammate or training partner.

“It’s a bit of a tricky situation. We’re teammates, we are friends — close friends — first and foremost and we won’t fight each other. I want to start our discussion by making it clear that we will not fight each other, so now you all know,” Gustafsson told Viaplay Fight Week.

“It’s a tricky situation, for sure. But I mean, we’ll see what happens. [Daniel Cormier] is now going up to face Stipe [Miocic], Ilir Latifi has heavyweight as a possibility. We’ll sort it out somehow. Of course we both should be able to dream of the belt and we both should get our chances to fight for the title, but we’ll see how it all turns out when we get there.”

The same goes for Gustafsson with Manuwa, who he actually defeated prior to becoming his teammate in recent years. Their friendship and bond as training partners would now make Manuwa another untouchable opponent in Gustafsson’s eyes no matter how much the rankings might say they should clash again one day in the future.

“We’ll see. I can move up to heavyweight, in the light heavyweight division we have Jon Jones coming back, [Daniel Cormier] who maybe is coming back or maybe not. We’ll see how it all plays out,” Gustafsson said.

“But me and Ilir [Latifi] will not compete against each other and the same goes for Jimi [Manuwa].”

If Gustafsson had his choice, he would rather face Cormier for the light heavyweight title or welcome Jon Jones back to the Octagon when he’s clear to return.

Unfortunately neither of those options are available right now with Cormier set to face heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in July while Jones remains on suspension after testing positive for steroids last year.

That leaves Gustafsson in a precarious position but if worse comes to worst, he’ll entertain fights at heavyweight before he’ll face one of his teammates.

“We’ll simply have to sit down and talk.” Gustafsson said about the messy situation. “How are we going to solve this in the best possible way? Time will tell — but trust me, we’ll sort it out.

“Heavyweight is also an option. I’m a heavyweight today. I’m actually only a light heavyweight during one day and that’s the weigh-in, after that I’m a good heavyweight.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.