Despite fighting and winning the main event of his UFC debut, Gegard Mousasi was far from jubilant on Saturday night.
Mousasi (34-3-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) beat Ilir Latifi (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision at UFC on FUEL TV 9 in Stockholm. He was a massive favorite in the fight since Latifi took over for Alexander Gustafsson on just four days’ notice.
Mousasi was in what many called a lose-lose situation: Win the fight, and you’re supposed to against a fighter few outside of Sweden had heard of. Lose, and …
But there was even more to the past week’s drama than was made public when Mousasi revealed after the fight that he’ll be going under the knife – and isn’t sure just how soon he might be back.
“I don’t want to talk a lot about my injury, but I can tell you that this injury, I’m pretty sure 95 percent wouldn’t fight, other fighters,” Mousasi said at the post-fight news conference at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, site of Saturday’s card. “I stepped up. I didn’t cancel the show. I don’t know. We’ll go from here.”
Mousasi wasn’t in much mood to elaborate on just how long he’ll be out or the severity of his injury.
“I don’t want to say anything yet, but it’s nothing small,” he said.
UFC President Dana White praised the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion for not backing out of the fight – and for sticking in there when Gustafsson was pulled in favor of a fighter with a completely different style.
Latifi’s style also was one that has given Mousasi trouble in the past. Latifi, known for his strong wrestling game, was thought to have that as the one way he could beat Mousasi. Mousasi lost his Strikeforce title to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in 2010, and Lawal’s strength, of course, is his wrestling.
“Mousasi had knee problems all through his camp,” White said. “He checked with his doctor, and his doctor said, ‘You can make it through this fight, and then you’re going to have to have surgery after the fight.’ The kid wants to fight because he’s going to come here and fight the No. 3-ranked light heavyweight in the world – he doesn’t want to give up this opportunity, he wants to fight. He shows up here to fight (Gustafsson), who gets stopped (from fighting) on a cut – and we won’t even get into that. We’ll leave that alone. We all know what’s up with that. He’s training for this tall striker and ends up fighting a short, strong, southpaw wrestler. And still accepts the fight and takes it.”
White’s allusion was to the Sweden commission that pulled Gustafsson from the fight earlier this week for a cut above his left eye that required three stitches. It was a cut that appeared to have mostly healed by the time most of the UFC brass arrived on the scene in Stockholm on Wednesday.
But White also praised Latifi for taking the fight on short turnaround time, and said the Swede certainly will get another chance in the UFC despite losing a lopsided unanimous decision.
“Latifi comes in on four days’ notice, cuts the weight and takes on Gegard Mousasi, who’s 33-3, when this guy’s 8-2, and stays in there three rounds with him,” White said. “So again, much respect to the guys in the main event.”
Mousasi didn’t take many chances in the fight, perhaps owing to his knee, but also owing to Latifi’s strengths in the wrestling game and the power in his hands. Latifi threw many heavy bombs in the fight that Mousasi routinely stayed out of range of.
In his post-fight in-cage interview with FUEL TV’s Kenny Florian, Mousasi said some fighters lay and pray, but perhaps he did the standup version of that.
“He’s a gentleman, and he’s a sportsman,” Mousasi said. “He stepped up, and I’m thankful to him. He took some hard punches, you know, but I didn’t want to take any risks. Had nothing to lose, so I fought smart.”
Many seemed to be interested in eventually seeing the originally scheduled fight between Mousasi and Gustafsson. But now, with Mousasi’s planned surgery, just when, if ever, that fight takes place is anyone’s guess.