Alexander Gustafsson is widely considered one of the best light heavyweights in the world. Ranked at #3 in the official UFC LHW rankings, losing Gustafsson would be a huge loss to the promotion, but the Swede is having trouble staying motivated in the gym.
"I'm just feeling like I have a tough time with my motivation," Gustafsson told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour (h/t Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting). "It goes from time to time. Some days it's better, some days it's a little bit worse."
Gustafsson fought current 205 lbs. champion Daniel Cormier in a pulsating back-and-forth fight at UFC 192 but fell short on the judges score cards. The 29-year-old also went toe-to-toe with Jon Jones in 2013, but, again, lost out on the decision.
It's not the first time Gustafsson has questioned his own motivation, either. "The Mauler" was brutally knocked out by Anthony Johnson at UFC on FOX 14 and hinted at retirement shortly after the bout.
Gustafsson says things have only gotten worse since losing to Cormier and admits that his daily training at Alliance MMA has been a struggle.
"It's been getting worse, that I'm losing that happiness in training, that motivation," Gustafsson said. "If you just train because you have to train, it's not the right reasons. It's not always shine and good feelings in training. But when it comes down to it you need to have that happiness and motivation in training.
"If you don't have that happiness in you, it's gonna be tough to motivate yourself in those hard rounds, last rounds," he said."
The two-time title challenger has no plans to retire, however, and acknowledges that MMA is a sport of emotional extremes.
"It's hard to just go one day from another to being one of the best fighters in the world to just stop doing what you love to do," Gustafsson said. "I am a fighter and it's what I do, what I live for. Quitting is actually not an option if you put the cards on the table. It's just emotions, feelings. It's what you have to battle every day as an athlete."
No opponent has been announced for Gustafsson's next bout, but a likely candidate to challenge the boxing specialist is Glover Teixeira.