So let it be written, so let it be done: UFC president Dana White has decreed Alexander Gustafsson will get the next shot at the UFC light heavyweight title, regardless who wins the title fight between champion Jon Jones and challenger Glover Teixeira at UFC 172 in April.
“If Jones wins, we have a nasty rematch," White said, after Gustafsson waxed Jimi Manuwa on Saturday in London. "If [Jones] doesn't, it's [Gustafsson] vs. Teixeira."
Well, not so fast.
White is used to getting what he wants, but Jones hasn’t always been known as a man who blindly follows his boss’ whims. Not long after White's declaration, Jones took to Twitter and disputed the notion that Gustafsson, whom Jones beat by narrow decision at UFC 165 in the bout most consider 2013’s Fight of the Year, is deserving of a rematch just yet.
Jones believes Gustafsson should square off with another top contender, Daniel Cormier.
“Why not give the winner of Alexander and DC the winner of myself and Glover?” Jones tweeted.
Such is the state of things in the light heavyweight division in 2014. Several dangerous names lurk in the top tier, including Jones, champion for the past three years and the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter; Gustafsson, the lanky Swede who came a whisker from lifting the belt in September; Cormier, an undefeated former heavyweight who dropped down to 205 in order to avoid a clash with friend and heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez; Phil Davis, who has racked up win after win while staying on the outside looking in for big-money fights; and former champ Rashad Evans, currently sidelined with a knee injury.
Gustafsson, for his part, took his fight with the unheralded Manuwa without complaint and has his sights squarely set on a Jones rematch.
"I want to fight him," Gustafsson said of Jones at Saturday's post-fight press conference, "And I want to finish him."
But the rest of the pack seems to be engaging in passive-aggressive campaigns to give others the toughest possible path.
Then there’s Cormier, who was slated to meet Evans at UFC 170 in a bout which would have given everyone a solid gauge on where he stands in the division. But when Evans pulled out less than two weeks before the fight due to his injury, Cormier instead scored a quick TKO of late replacement Patrick Cummins, which did nothing to clear the picture.
Cormier has a bully pulpit the rest of the division lacks: A regular side gig as an analyst during UFC broadcasts on FOX sports properties. He hasn’t been afraid to use the power of television to float his thoughts on where he rates in the division and what he believes his next fight should be.
On a recent edition of FS1’s UFC Tonight, Cormier said that if Gustafsson fights Jones, then he should meet the winner of a UFC 172 bout between Davis and Anthony Johnson, with that winner becoming No. 1 contender, while making himself available should any fighter in the upcoming big bouts pull out with an injury.
"I guess I stay ready and if someone gets injured, the fight makes sense," Cormier said. "I'll fight anytime. They've got some big fights coming up. If anybody gets hurt, they can give me a call."
It seems like no one is in a rush to fight Gustafsson. But Jones turned the question around on Twitter.
I see DC congratulating Alexander and making comments about waiting his turn now.. I wonder if they're afraid to fight each other?
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) March 9, 2014
Then there’s Davis. Davis is 8-1 in the UFC, with his only loss a 2012 decision to Evans. His most recent fight was a win over former champion Lyoto Machida, after which Machida dropped down to middleweight and is now slated for a shot at champion Chris Weidman.
While Davis expected a top-tier competitor in his next fight, he’ll instead meet Johnson, a former UFC washout getting a second chance. Davis, who trains with Gustafsson at San Diego’s Alliance MMA, took digs at the rest of the pack at a recent media event.
"Most people would rematch," Davis said of Jones and Gustafsson. "But [Jones] said, 'forget about that, forget about you.' I find that interesting. Very interesting."
Davis then turned his fire toward Cormier and Teixiera. "It can be any combination of title things that get you a title shot," Davis said. "Apparently fighting Roy Nelson and then fighting Pat Cummins gets you a title shot. Maybe beating no one in the top 10 like Glover did gets you a title shot. There's no rhyme or reason to getting a title shot.”
All of this talk, of course, seems to dismiss the notion that Teixeira, who has won 20 straight fights and has scary punching power, could beat Jones.
Jones, of course, has gone through a murderer’s row to get where he is, which makes the idea he’s ducking anyone seem a bit daft. He’s the one with the belt, so we’ll let him have the last words in this little talk show – the words he posted to Twitter in defense of his original Saturday tweet:
People who don't like to think are quick to call me afraid. Think about it, I'm asking for the meanest of the two
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) March 9, 2014
Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter: @DaveDoylemma