On the heels of a failed bid to capture the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title, Anthony Smith rebounded from his defeat to champion Jon Jones by submitting Alexander Gustafsson in the UFC Fight Night 153 main event on Saturday at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. While it was the most significant win of Smith’s career to date, it appears to have ended Gustafsson’s run in mixed martial arts.
“I just want to thank you all for coming out here tonight and [for the] support and for the support of all the fighters here,” Gustafsson said while taking off his gloves and leaving them on the Octagon floor. “Every time the UFC comes back, it’s just a highlight. Every time, it’s amazing to be here and to compete in front of you and hear all the cheers, and yeah, what can I say? The show is over guys.”
The thought of retirement must have been on the mind of the Allstars Training Center representative prior to the event. Earlier in the week, the Swedish star was a guest on “The MMA Hour,” where he admitted that if Smith defeated him, it might be a warning sign that he does not “have it anymore.” While retirements in MMA should always be taken with a grain of salt due to a long history of fighters changing their minds and returning to action, Gustafsson left no doubt about his plans to retire while being interviewed during the ESPN+ post-fight show.
“Yes, I am done,” Gustafsson said. “I don’t do this for money or anything. I do this because I want to be the best and beat the best. If I can’t do that, it is what it is. It feels like I don’t have it in me anymore. I just have the feeling. It’s time now. I don’t want to be a journeyman.”
Smith does not view Gustafsson as a middling talent.
“He is hard to get to,” Smith said. “He moves way faster than he looks on film, and he kind of just disappears on you. I really hope he rethinks retirement. I know it firsthand [that] he has a lot left in him.”
Gustafsson has lost two fights in a row, as he fell short in his rematch with the aforementioned Jones at UFC 232 in December. The two men had locked horns previously at UFC 165 in September 2013, as “Bones” won a unanimous decision in one of the greatest light heavyweight fights of all-time. After Gustafsson announced his retirement, Jones sent him a message via Twitter: “Honestly, I don’t believe you but if you’re serious, thank you for everything. You held the division to a standard and made us better. Go kick ass with that family.”
The 32-year-old Gustafsson fought for the UFC light heavyweight title on three different occasions. Besides losing to Jones twice, he also dropped a narrow split decision to Daniel Cormier at UFC 192 in October 2015. Cormier, now the heavyweight champion, offered words of encouragement to “The Mauler” through Instagram: “Alex, you will forever be one of the biggest players in my journey. We’ve agreed, we have argued and bickered, but ultimately you made me better. You made the sport better. You are a warrior and will be truly missed. I understand the motivation changes and for you it is now your family. I say now you’re starting to really live the good life. Congrats on a great career my man. You’re a hammer. See you around.”
Gustafsson’s battle with Smith marked the fourth time he had headlined a UFC event in his native Sweden, going 2-2 in those appearances. He defeated Thiago Santos at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in February 2012 and stopped Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 109 in May 2017. In addition to his loss to Smith, Gustafsson fell to Anthony Johnson at UFC on Fox 14 in January 2015.
“The Mauler” was not the only fighter to call it a career in the wake of UFC Fight Night 153. Nick Hein announced his retirement following his technical knockout loss to Frank Camacho on the undercard.
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