Jon Jones (24-1, 1 NC) continues to outwardly wear the appearance of consummate maturity. Suited and booted in what looked like a presidential security car, the UFC light heavyweight champion opened up on a few pressing topics for the listeners of Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show.
No fear of Thiago Santos
Next in the UFC’s conveyor belt of 185-ers trying their luck against Jon Jones is Thiago Santos. Jones’ rule in the light heavyweight kingdom is medieval in nature; dirty, brutal and scarily dominant. Fitting, then, that his upcoming opponent hails from a distant land, is of barbaric proportions, and literally wields a war hammer – in tattoo form. But, like all kings worth their salt, Jones fears no man, nor the power in his hands.
“I’m not worried about him at all,” Jones said. “My fiancé is strong enough to knock me out if I put my hands behind my back. A lot of people hit hard; everybody has the power to knock you out. My manager could knock me out if I let him punch me in the face. It’s about being smart enough to land that punch so I’m not worried about heavy hitters. The fighters that worry me the most are the intelligent fighters, the ones who can set up those punches, set up a gameplan.”
Santos isn’t particularly known for his fight IQ, often preferring the more dynamic, aggressive ‘Hulk Smash’ approach. But there’s always a puncher’s chance, especially if you carry his brand of fight-ending power.
A rare controversy-free fight week
A Jon Jones fight lead-up is usually like an NFL Team’s war room on Draft Day. But, so far, there’s nothing to report. And that’s the way he seems to like it.
“It feels right to have no chaos and no controversy,” smiled Jones.
“So far, no drama. Everything’s been going smooth. Training camp has been going great; everyone in the team is working so hard. I’ve never had a team get behind like they have with myself Holly and Diego – all the amateurs, all the pros, everyone’s just doing what they can to make us better.”
Sharing July 6’s International Fight Week card with Jones are Jackson-Winklejohn teammates Holly Holm, who appears to be making a last run at the bantamweight title; and the seemingly immortal Diego Sanchez, who squares off with new welterweight contender Michael Chiesa.
Heavyweight beckoning, but no Cormier reckoning
Jon Jones’ weight has always been a bit of a marvel. His stature and reach don’t compute with standard light heavyweight requirements; add in his talent and work ethic, and the popular opinion is that he might never lose at 205 pounds. He does want to move up, eventually, but the “when” is a little murky.
“I am thinking of heavyweight, it’s just not at the forefront. I’m making light heavyweight easily. I’m a light heavyweight. I feel like heavyweight will come, but things are just going so well where I’m at that there’s no reason to change anything,” revealed Jones.
That rules out conquering DC’s kingdom, for now. But what if the heavyweight champ tried to return to Jones’ realm for a third time? That’s unlikely in Jones’ eyes – heavyweights eat well and he doesn’t think Daniel has room on his plate for another loss, he says.
“He won’t do it,” Jones said. “It takes a lot out of him to make that weight cut. I haven’t seen him in person, but I hear that he is bigger than ever and to lose all that weight and to come up short a third time, it takes a lot of courage, I would imagine. I just don’t think he has the balls to do it. He knows what to say to people to appear not afraid of me, but I think deep down inside, he knows what it’s like after losing to me twice: going home crying and all this… I just doubt he’s going to do that to himself again.”
A challenge for Jon Jones beyond “Marreta”
But what about Cormier’s AKA kinsmen, the new kid on the light heavyweight block, former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold?
“The UFC has made whispers about possibly Luke being next, but I don’t really care. My job is to beat literally anyone in my division. That’s the journey I’m on. I’ve been fighting the toughest guys since I was 23 years old, so that fast lane is my lane. Tough fights is (sic) what I do,” reaffirmed Jones.
That’s a fight the UFC is likely keen to engineer. Rockhold shares the July 6 spotlight with Jon Jones, facing battle-hardy contender Jan Blachowicz, and will likely throw down the gauntlet to Jones should he get the win over the Poland native.
Two fighters who are not getting serious attention from Jones, however, are UFC interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, and undefeated Bellator prospect Dillon Danis.
“Some guys just like to bring up my name to make them look cool,” Jones laughs. “They know I’m likely to respond.”
Of the two, “The Last Stylebender’s” provocation seemed to give Jones more to think about. On Danis, Jones simply said, “I wouldn’t grapple with him, but I’d put my foot in his mouth.”
But in regards to Adesanya, Jon Jones broke down a potential fight.
“I really don’t have an issue [with him]. I think the worst I said about the kid was that he was looking promising, and I think he said something about killing one GOAT with Anderson Silva and now he’s coming after me. The biggest difference is that I’m 31 years old and I feel like I’m still reaching my prime. If you look back throughout a lot of my fights, you hear guys say, ‘Jon is a lot stronger than he looks,’ and Israel is light in the ass.
“He’s light; he’s skinny. I put my hands on him. I’d teach him a whole different world of hurt. For him to be so frail and not have a ground game it’s like – bro, you don’t wanna do it.”
Just to be sure, Helwani brought up Adesanya’s call out, “Your time will come when I say so”, asking if that meant a potential matchup down the line was imminent.
“Wanna know what that means? ‘I’m a bitch, I can’t beat you Jon’. Him fighting me when he’s ready to beat me it’s like, don’t open your mouth if you feel you can’t beat me right now.”
“And then, to talk about my stand up against Anthony Smith with his face all bubbled up against a short wrestler [Kelvin Gastelum], it was just hilarious. For Israel to talk about his striking skills being so much further ahead than mine – it’s hilarious. Just to sum up what I think about him, I think he’s a little too light in the ass; he needs to eat some more jerk chicken and come holla at me,” concluded Jones.
Rhodri Morgan is a combat sports writer based out of London, England. When not covering MMA, he can be found roaming the halls of a south London Wholefoods, finding a dog to befriend and rolling in the doomed pursuit of the perfect kimura.