• Sweden's news in English

Swedish MMA star Alexander Gustafsson mauls his way to the top

The Local · 5 Aug 2011, 10:08

Published: 05 Aug 2011 10:08 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Despite his humble roots in central Sweden, Gustafsson, who measures a towering 196 cm (6’5”) and weighs a 93 kilos (205 lbs.), is an imposing figure whether he’s pummelling an opponent or simply conducting an interview.

And he’s been doing a lot of both of those activities in recent months during his nothing less than meteoric rise through the ranks of the world’s MMA circuits to reach the sport’s most prestigious league, the US-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

This weekend, Gustafsson is set to do battle in Philadelphia in the eastern United States in UFC 133, a fight that could propel him toward a shot at a world title.

While most top MMA competitors are wrestlers from America, credentialed with college national championships and Olympic medals, or elite jiu-jitsu fighters from Brazil, Gustafsson bucks the trend.

Growing up in Arboga, a small town two hours west of Stockholm, the energetic and competitive Gustafsson began his fighting career as a boxer.

"Fighting was in my nature,” he tells Studio MMA in a recent interview, adding that he never took the activity very seriously.

But a 2006 trip to Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast changed everything.

It was then that the athletic 19-year-old first discovered MMA and quickly realised that the fast-moving combat sport, in which sometimes bloody bouts can end in less than a minute due to a knockout or submission, was “his thing”.

The sport, which in addition to boxing added the disciplines of kickboxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai was exactly what the Gustafsson was looking for.

"He was a natural talent and he was big," Gustafsson's MMA coach August Wallen tells The Local in recalling his first impressions of the teen.

Soon thereafter, Gustafsson decide to make a career of the sport and found near immediate success, travelling to Finland in late 2007 to claim his first two professional victories.

By 2008, the Swede was also able to showcase his skills on his home turf in Sweden’s first MMA event since the passage of the country’s "martial arts law", which voided a ban on professional boxing and other combat sports.

The Swede remains one of the sports best kept secrets, having competed in a number of lower-profile events outside the US, where the success of the UFC has helped boost the sports popularity.

Gustafsson is already the 15th ranked fighter in the world, with only one loss in 12 professional bouts in what is being hyped as "the fastest growing sport in the world".

It was back in 2009 that Gustafsson, who had by then racked up eight straight wins and was defeating opponents within minutes, earned his nickname “The Mauler”.

"It was natural to give him something related to striking; if Alex doesn't knock people out directly he just mauls them down over a round," coach Wallen explains.

A short time later the Swede’s big break came in the form of contract from the UFC, the world's elite MMA league, in what Gustafsson refers to as the "happiest day of my life".

Suddently, Gustafsson found himself as the only Swede in the UFC, after two Swedes who had previously fought in the league were released with losing records.

"They wanted a Scandinavian fighter and they liked my style," he says.

Story continues below…

Since joining the UFC’s light-heavyweight division, Gustafsson has tallied three wins and one loss, making him a “hot prospect” in the eyes of many.

Gustafsson’s upcoming opponent in UFC 133 is Matt Hamill, a popular figure who has starred on a popular MMA reality show and is the subject of a feature film.

But going up against such a storied fighter in front of 15,000 rabid US fans at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center – not to mention millions of television viewers – doesn’t phase the big Swede even if his country’s MMA reputation is now riding on his shoulders.

"I don't feel any pressure. I just think it's fun to do," he says.

Ryan O'Leary is a Sweden-based writer who covers MMA in Scandinavia

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

18:47 August 5, 2011 by imeldajim
Very nicely written article
19:40 August 7, 2011 by Playmaker
he is a good fighter and very fun to watch.
09:31 August 9, 2011 by markimus7
Intersting article and cool video!
04:06 August 15, 2011 by philster61
Why is Pro boxing etc banned in Sweden anyway? Seems insulting to adults who enjoy contact sports....
Today's headlines
Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available