Alexander Gustafsson partnering up with Swedish MMA promotion!
Three time UFC title challenger and Swedish MMA star Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson has kept himself out of the spotlight and has been relatively quiet since his retirement from MMA, following a tough submission loss to Anthony Smith in Stockholm last month. Now he has broken his silence, and while seemingly staying retired he’s not walking away from MMA altogether.
Last year Swedish amateur MMA promotion AK Fighting Championships debuted, focusing on bringing a pro MMA feel to amateur MMA fights, with high production value and the goal of developing young talent into future stars.
MMAnytt can now reveal that Gustafsson will be partnering up with the sister organisation AK Fighting, featuring both pro and amateur bouts. AK Fighting has also signed an exclusive deal with Fight Pharm, a sports supplement owned by Gustafsson, fellow fighter Ilir Latifi and CEO Besim Berisha.
At times finding events to compete at can be hard in Sweden and Scandinavia, as there isn’t as big of an domestic MMA scene as would be desired, with many continuous events. This will be an excellent opportunity for young, up-and-coming fighters to get a taste of big shows and events, moulding them into seasoned and experienced competitors.
“This is big, really big,” Gustafsson told MMAnytt, who were present as he signed the contract with AK Fighting. “In part for AK Fighting Championship, and also for Fight Pharm. AKFC is a high quality promotion that we believe in. The new generation of fighters will come in here and get a chance to perform and develop. It’s an extremely professional organisation and promotion that, in my opinion, will become a promotion to reckon with in the future – in Sweden and internationally.
Since I’ve also gone through that whole process I understand what these events mean for a fighter, to be able to come in and compete actively, build a record and let it be a starting point for bigger fights and a career. So it’s incredibly big, I’m really looking forward to it and it’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of it from all sides.“
AKFC’s first event was a successful one, that managed to shine light on many of the overlooked amateur prospects trying to build up momentum on the local MMA scene. Much of this is done through professional production and pre-fight build up. The next event will however be substantially bigger, featuring both amateur and pro bouts. Some of the pro fighters expected to fight on the next event are PFL veteran Jonatan Westin and accomplished thaiboxer turned MMA fighter; Hamza Bougamza.
In regards to Gustafssons own involvement in the promotion, he hopes his name and status will serve as both inspiration for young talents, but also proof of how far young Swedish fighters can go on the world stage.
“I really hope it entices them. They see that I managed to go all the way to the top and I really hope they can find motivation in all of it. It shows that it’s not impossible. This is a tough business, there’s tough competition, but with the right willpower, discipline and hard work you’ll ge there. It’s going to be really fun to bring this further, to be there from the other side of the cage so to speak,” Gustafsson continued.
“To me it really means a lot to be a part of this. To be able to give back to the sport and to the new fighters on their way up. At the same time it eases my desire [to fight] a bit. So we’re really looking forward to this, this is going to be fun.”
AKFC-founder Alexander Khalaf also sees the true potential in this partnership. His hopes have been to raise the bar for Swedish MMA and to help it grow overall. With a high quality, professional production and pre-fight build up they hope to turn the amateur MMA scene into something with a much larger mainstream appeal, and consequently, leading to a larger pool of talent that will eventually go pro.
“Alexander Gustafsson taking a step like this and partnering up from two sides with AK Fighting Championship, to give back to swedish MMA fighters who are on their way up and opening up this platform, it means everything for the operation we’re running and the concept we’re trying stick to,” Khalaf told MMAnytt. “We’re working with developing fighters’ own brands and making sure that they grow so that they can be seen and heard more. With Alexander Gustafsson behind us it will obviously open new doors for our guys and girls. It’s them this is about at the end of the day. This is big and I hope that people around see how important this is for Swedish MMA.”
Majdi Shamas has been working closely with Gustafsson during many stages of his career, and is also an affiliate for his management team Moments Management. Shamas is clearly excited about all the opportunities this will bring, and emphasised how much focus would go towards building up the fighters, who he says 95% of the budget will be focused on.
“I’m always humble, I’ve seen many come and go. I don’t want to take anything away from the MMA promotions that have been around all these years. But I want to humbly say that this can turn out great. That this platform for all fighters can be great. I don’t event think the UFC puts as much into their fighters as they do here. All the publicity the fighters competing here are getting, you can’t get that anywhere else.”
It’s clear that hopes and ambitions are equally high, and that this will be an excellent opportunity for young Swedish prospects to become the next Alexander Gustafsson. The next AKFC event is slated for a yet t o be determined date in fall of this year, in Örebro, Sweden.