It seems nearly every time the UFC light heavyweight division comes up, no matter who is fighting, 205-pound champ Jon Jones takes front and center.
Well, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is having none of it. Yes, he turned down a fight with Jones. No, he’s not thinking about getting a shot at him.
Shogun has enough to think about. He’ll have rocketing Swede Alexander Gustafsson standing across from him at UFC on Fox 5 on Saturday night in Seattle. He can’t afford to look beyond “The Mauler” or he’ll get mauled.
“It’s important to take (everything) step-by-step right now and I’m focusing on this fight,” Shogun commented recently. “Everything can change after that. Right now, (it’s all) about the fight against Gustafsson.”
Try as he might, however, Shogun still gets circled back to Jones.
The Brazilian has no qualms about fighting Jones again, despite losing his UFC light heavyweight title belt to the now-champion at UFC 128 early last year. He also has no qualms, however, about turning down the opportunity to fight him again this year.
Jones had been scheduled to face Dan Henderson at UFC 151 on Sept. 1 in Las Vegas, but Henderson fell out of the bout at the last minute due to injury. The UFC was unsuccessful in securing a new opponent for Jones and subsequently took the unprecedented step of cancelling the event.
Shogun was one of the fighters offered the shot at Jones, but he was unprepared, and thus, unwilling to accept it.
“I was off – totally off training – when the UFC invite me to fight against Jones,” explained Shogun. “Everybody knew that I was off those two weeks after my fight against (Brandon) Vera. So I am satisfied. I told the UFC that I just need six weeks, but I was explaining that (two weeks) is not enough time.”
Shogun had just defeated Brandon Vera on Aug. 4 in a tough fight at UFC on Fox 4. The two battled hard into the fourth round before Shogun finally scored the TKO victory just past the four-minute mark of the round.
It wasn’t an easy fight, and after spending two weeks of down time to recover, he just wasn’t going to be prepared for the perplexing puzzle that is Jon Jones.
That’s okay by Shogun. He’s now working his way back into title contention by facing one of the hottest prospects on the planet in Alexander Gustafsson.
And if you ask him, Shogun did the right thing be stepping away from the short-notice bout against Jones and into the fray against a young tiger like Gustafsson because he’s now prepared, firing on all cylinders.
“I’m in a wonderful place for the Gustafsson fight. Everything’s running okay. The schedule hasn’t change; there’s no injuries,” Shogun declared. “So we’re almost done. I’m ready for this fight.
“I think this is a fight that every fan wants to see because both (of us) look for the knockout.”
Gustafsson has only slipped up once in his career, losing via submission to Phil Davis two and a half years ago. He’s been a terminator ever since.
His most recent bouts have seen him get the best of Thiago Silva, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Matt Hamill, among others. If he gets past Shogun, Gustafsson is right at the top of the list to vie for Jones’ belt.
A past loss to Jones and declining the opportunity to rematch him just a few short months ago doesn’t mean that Shogun wants out of the picture. A former Pride and UFC champion, the Brazilian wants nothing more than to strap that belt back around his own waist.
But that’s just it. He didn’t want to jump on an opportunity he wasn’t prepared for. He wanted the odds to be back in his favor to have a legitimate shot at regaining the gold.
And what better preparation than the test of the young Swede that many say has all the tools and physical traits to give Jones a true run for his money?