There was a lot of talk earlier this week about title shots when UFC President Dana White revealed that with a win at UFC on Fuel 9, Alexander Gustafsson would land as the next man in line to face Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight gold.
His opponent, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi, didn't receive the same offer from White during his title fight talk.
The Dutch striker wasn't upset to hear that Gustafsson may get a title shot with a win, but the same courtesy would not be extended to him. Mousasi knows he still has to earn his way in the UFC, but he plans on doing just that starting with Alexander Gustafsson on April 6 in Sweden.
"I think it's perfectly normal cause he's been fighting a long time in the UFC, so of course he's a lot closer to the title shot," Mousasi said about Gustafsson when speaking to Bleacher Report on Friday. "If after this fight if I win, I would like to fight the next contender for a title run."
Mousasi isn't giving up on his title hopes after this fight because performance pays off and if he can dispatch with Gustafsson in impressive fashion there's no telling what could come next. His mission is to put Gustafsson away in such a manner that UFC President Dana White will have no other choice but to put his name into contention.
"I'm looking at this as a way to the title," Mousasi said. "First it's Gustafsson, I need to deal with that and after that the next No. 1 contender and then if I win that one then I feel like I deserve it. That's up to the UFC because it depends on how I perform, and how I win. There's a lot of things that go into getting a title shot."
If a title shot doesn't greet Mousasi following a win in April, he's happy to take another fight and he's targeting a solid list of contenders. The names at the top of the list include UFC 157 co-main event fighters Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida.
Henderson and Machida were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively with the latest UFC fighter rankings, and Mousasi knows beating the winner of that fight would all but assure him a shot at the gold.
"I think Machida and Henderson are the No. 1 guys after this, and then you have Gustafsson. Maybe to see who's next it's (best for me) to fight Machida or Dan Henderson," Mousasi said.
The title picture in the light heavyweight division won't necessarily become clear until after Henderson and Machida square off and Gustafsson battles Mousasi. Then at that point, there may be more definition of who stands in line next to fight for the 205-pound belt.
All Mousasi knows for sure is that if his name isn't on a bout agreement to face the champion, he wants the next closest person, whoever that may be.
"I think if I beat (Gustafsson) and then another fight then I deserve to fight for the title. After this fight, maybe the winner of (Lyoto) Machida/Dan Henderson, you have (Antonio Rogerio) Nogueira, (Glover) Teixiera, they're doing well. So go against one of those guys to determine who is the next No. 1 guy," said Mousasi. "If I win that one then I think I deserve a title shot, but first this fight."
One part of his own destiny that Mousasi wants to control this year is how often he fights. After long layoffs due to injury and inactivity as part of the Strikeforce roster, Mousasi plans to stay very busy in 2013, and when the year is over he wants to either have a title shot signed or already be wearing the belt.
"I'm making a run for the title so it's very important to win and hopefully the next fight will come soon," Mousasi said. "After the title fight maybe I'll fight a little less, but my goal this year is to fight as much as possible."
Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.