Rising heavyweight kickboxer Benjamin Adegbuyi got a nice publicity boost last week when UFC light-heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson took to Facebook to suggest that his Romanian friend should be in the running for a shot at the GLORY heavyweight title.
Adegbuyi was brought in by All Stars, Gustafsson’s team, for a training camp earlier this year. He provided some hard stand-up sparring for the Swede and the two have remained in touch. Adegbuyi was touched by Gustafsson’s message of support.
“Yeah he saw the news on the GLORY website where [heavyweight champion] Rico Verhoeven was asking ‘who’s next?’ to challenge him,” he says.
“Myself and Alex stayed in good relations ever since I was part of his training camp for the Jimi Manuwa fight earlier this year. I didn’t ask him to put that out on Facebook, he did it himself, I thought it was nice.
“It got a really good reaction, much more than I would have expected. Within a few hours I had so many friend requests on Facebook, from all around the world, and a lot of people offering me support and saying it would be nice to see me fight against Rico.”
Gustafsson’s training camp for the Manuwa fight was obviously a good one. He became not only the first fighter to beat the previously undefeated Manuwa but also managed to do it by way of stoppage on the feet.
That outcome surprised a lot of fans, given Manuwa’s stand-up pedigree, but Gustafsson wasn’t one of them. He knew from his sparring with Gustafsson that the Swede can bang with the best of them in standing exchanges.
“I had a strange feeling when I first sparred with him,” he says.
“You go to any mixed martial arts gym and you’re like OK, they have good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling and of course they have stand-up and Muay Thai, but obviously you wouldn’t expect that their pure striking would be as good as in a kickboxing gym.
“So I was very surprised by Alex because he has very quick hands, good boxing, good kicking. If you went in there and didn’t take him seriously… well, he would quickly make you take him seriously, you know?
“Andreas [Michael, head coach] at All Stars is former boxing coach to the Swedish Olympic team so I think he’s a big part of that. They have a good Thai coach there as well. Actually I think if Alex ever came over to fight in Glory he would do very well.”
Not only did the camp make Adegbuyi a fan of Gustafsson as a kickboxer, it also made him personally curious about some elements of MMA training. He won’t be switching codes any time soon, but he might start to learn a few things for his own enjoyment.
“I was thinking of training wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a little bit but only because I’d like to know a bit, just for fun, not for competition. I wouldn’t change to a different style of fighting now, from kickboxing to MMA,” he says.
And finally, as Gustafsson has expressed the belief that Adegbuyi can be GLORY heavyweight champion, so too does Adegbuyi believe that Gustafsson will take light-heavyweight gold in the UFC.
“In my opinion, as Jon Jones and Alex were supposed to fight in the first place, it should be him to fight Jones now that Cormier is injured,” he says.
“The UFC obviously has its own strategy and I cannot comment on that but for me, Alex deserves the fight. And I think he will win. He is capable of knocking Jon Jones out for sure.”
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