SUN SPORT can exclusively reveal Karl Albrektsson has signed a deal with Bellator – and the ‘King’ is ready to go through everyone to claim the light heavyweight crown.
The 25-year-old Swedish star could make his bow for the MMA promotion in a mega show in his homeland later this year.
And the 6ft 2in powerhouse (9-2) could not contain his delight after joining the Bellator ranks – even if it was six years after initial talks between the two parties.
Albrektsson told The Sun: “This is the next step I needed for my career. I’ve been fighting for Rizin and on my home soil in Sweden, but I think I’m now ready for the next step.
“We’ve talking since the beginning of summer but Bellator first contacted me a couple of years ago in 2013. That was our first contact, but I wanted to get more experience and now I’m a completely different fighter to how I was back then.
“It was definitely the right decision not to sign then as I have matured a lot. I’ve now got the overall experience needed to get to the top level. You have to go and get that experience before you go on the big stage, otherwise you just make a short visit and I want to go all the way to the top and get the belt.
“It was mixed emotions making that decision, but the people closest to me advised me to go that way and I put my life in their hands and that advice made sense to me. And it has paid off now, and I want to make a big impression on the world.”
‘THE KING IS COMING’
And Albrektsson wasted no time in issuing a warning to anyone who stands in his way on his quest to dominate.
He said: “I’m looking forward to putting the hurt and pressure on my opponents, make them tired, grind them and finish them. That’s what I look to do every time I step out there.
“I want to be unpredictable but I will always try to put on an entertaining show. I will do my best to do that and my fighting style is aggressive.
“I will make my statement in the cage and will go full force. Thank you for watching and to those who have believed in me, but everyone stay tuned… the king is coming.”
The “King”, who trains at Pancrase Gym, soon earned his nickname after bursting onto the scene as an 18-year-old.
But now he is determined to get the crown jewels to go with that tag.
Albrektsson said: “We have had 16 kings in Swedish history that have been named Karl, and it rhymes well in Swedish as king means kung, so they say ‘Kung Karl’.
“People started shouting ‘Kung, kung kung’ at one of my fights and since then it has just stuck,” he explained.
“The belt is what I’m aiming for and what I want. And I’ll be working my way up to title contention.
“I’m willing to face whoever. I’m hungry. I’ve been out of work and it’s been hard to pay the bills and put food on the table, so I’m just hungry for whoever – it doesn’t matter.”
And with talks underway for an extravaganza in his homeland later this year, he knows exactly where he wants his Bellator story to begin.
“That is a big opportunity for me and for Swedish MMA too so we can show we have fighters outside of UFC who can compete at the same level on a different show.
“There has been a big increase in the number of young kids and it is a lot more socially acceptable now.
Alexander Gustafsson had a huge impact on that with his main stream media exposure, and it has exploded. The kids now have a number of icons they can look up to and can watch it on the internet and more and more are trying it out.
“The Swedish social structure is very disciplined, you learn from an early age in school to get up early and work. And I think that mentality has crossed over to sports. We are a small nation but have had great success in our athletics, and I think there will be big results in the future for Swedish MMA.
“Now Alexander has retired, there has always been a big heavyweight fighter from Sweden, it is up to me to take that mantle… and get it up to the next level.
“But I do not want to live in anyone’s shadow; I’m here to make my own name.”
KARL ALBREKTSSON – FACTFILE
AGE: 25 (27/09/1993)
WEIGHT: Light Heavyweight
HEIGHT: 6ft 2in
PRO RECORD: 9-2-0 (Win-Loss-Draw)
CURRENT STREAK: Three wins
LAST FIGHT: Win over Christiano Frohlich (Unanimous decision) at Rizin 15 on April 21, 2019
ASSOCIATION: Pancrase Gym Sweden
Gustafsson’s love affair with MMA begin as a teen after initially taking up boxing in order to try and straighten himself after finding himself in regular trouble during his school days.
But he admits his path to the cage only started because he wanted to avoid getting his butt kicked by his younger brother.
He explained: “I was a bit of troublesome kid in my teens but I was very athletically gifted and played ice hockey. I was 6ft 2in and 205lbs when I was 15. But I got into some trouble at school and they asked me what I wanted to do and I told them I wanted to try boxing.
“I met a friend and mentor, a former English rugby player called Jay Elder, and he straightened me out after some long talks. We did some boxing training, then after six months my little brother joined an MMA gym.
“I thought if he is going to learn ground, submissions and wrestling then I was gonna get my a*** whooped by my little brother, so I couldn’t let that happen.
“So I started too and it was the most fun I’d ever had in my life. And ever since that first practice I decided I wanted to compete and go pro from right there on the mat back in 2008.”
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And Gustafsson is still being inspired by his younger brother today.
“My brother suffered an ACL injury a couple of years back and struggled with that but he is still very much involved in MMA.
“He has more of a coach role now and corners all of my fights and that is really important to me to have him with me.
“I feel secure when he is around and it puts some extra fuel in my engine knowing I have family close by and not to bring shame to my family name.”
Stay tuned to Sun Sport and Bellator’s Twitter page for news of the upcoming show in Sweden.