The ideal UFC champion is a highly illusive concept. They need notability in their pursuit of excellence in the ring but also volatility that garners attention. They need a willingness to fight anyone but wisdom to understand the matchups that spotlight their skills before their best days are behind them. Ironically, Jon Jones, the notorious fighter seemingly destined to allow his outside-the-ring explosiveness to overshadow his success, has found his way to the ideal picture of a champion. A person with a singular focus, and a mechanical-like march down the list of contenders in his division.
Now, after winning and defending his belt twice in eight months, the question is what next? Will he continue his campaign against his division’s contenders? Or will he take the divergent turn toward a big “money fight?”
Even when Jon Jones does not win a fight with a finish, his ability to dictate a fight’s pace, distance, and control lead to decision victories that do not garner interest in a rematch I think this means we should not expect another fight against Anthony Smith or Thiago Santos.
Meanwhile, from the UFC perspective, you can likely eliminate contenders that are lacking in fan-interest. So, I would cross off the list Jan Blachowicz and Corey Anderson for the time being.
If you have your contender list in front of you this leaves one obvious choice: Dominick Reyes. A fight with Reyes makes sense given his place at #4 on the rankings and his recent appearance on Jones’ twitter feed:
Somebody ask him if he wants some smoke https://t.co/S1ILkCHTma
— BONY (@JonnyBones) July 8, 2019
This fight also tracks with Jones’ interest expressed in interviews leading up to UFC 239, in which he stated that he wants to meet the division’s prospects when they are still green.
The money fight well for Jones is a bit drier than it is for champions in the UFC. After his fight at UFC 214, Jones called out Brock Lesnar but given that Daniel Cormier could not make this happen, it seems unlikely for Jones. The next conversation was around potentially fighting Luke Rockhold, but Blachowicz KO’d that possibility. Unfortunately, there’s no one in light heavyweight that can be classified as the “Nate Diaz” of the division, someone with name power and skill.
This leaves one name: Daniel Cormier. As a former champion, DC is more than just a money name, but after two decisive losses to Jon Jones, the logic of the fight is an exploitation of the drama of the rivalry more than a contender’s battle.
However, this fight seems to be at a stalemate. Jones and DC have expressed interest and disinterest in this fight, but they both agree it needs to be at light heavyweight. Meanwhile, fans and Dana White agree that if this will happen it needs to be at heavyweight.
Reyes seems like the most likely outcome, but it’s hard to imagine that the matchmaking going wrong for Jones. Comedian Bobby Lee often quotes the word of the late great American comedy club owner, Mitzi Shore who once said, “Do you want to know what it takes to be famous? Half the world needs to love you and half the world needs to hate you.”
By design, or by destiny, Jones’ champion path seems to continually trace this line perfectly.