UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones reflects on his title, upcoming opponent Rashad Evans and those who would suggest he's too inexperienced.
A year ago today, aged 23, I became the youngest ever UFC world champion and my life changed.
On April 21, I make the third defense of my title. I will be competing against a former UFC champion I know very well, Rashad Evans, in Atlanta.
My opponent and I used to train together at coach Greg Jackson’s gym here in Albuquerque, N.M.; we were training partners and friends. Now we are going to fight for the UFC world title in Atlanta next month.
My opponent believes he "has my number" because of the time we spent training. While he is obviously familiar with how I fight, I am familiar with him too, and we didn't spend that much time training together. If you added up all the days we worked out together or sparred, we probably only trained together for a month. That's a ton of time to observe someone, but it's not like we spent years training with each other.
And I’ve learned more in this past year after my opponent left the gym than in any other year in my career. A year ago I was preparing to meet another young contender – Ryan Bader – then I was offered the title shot on six weeks’ notice against Shogun Rua. Since then, I have defended the belt against Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida, two legends in the UFC.
To do all that, I had to grow so much as a fighter and my opponent isn't thinking it through if he believes I am the same fighter I was even 12 months ago.
The other thing my opponent has been saying is that I am inexperienced. I'm the youngest-ever UFC champion, and you can't be the youngest champion and the most experienced at the same time, especially after defeating some of the opponents that I have in the past year. I feel I am doing well. I had a very good 2011, beating a top contender, the reigning champion and then two top-ranked former champions – all of those fights gave me great experience.
I honestly feel I am working harder than any other fighter in the light-heavyweight division. I am listening to my coaches, watching tapes of my opponent and working very hard. I realize I have a target on my back like all champions do, and I have to train like I am the challenger in order to stay champion.
You’ve seen it in other sports, when a young guy comes on the scene and does well, people get excited and start writing and saying "this guy can’t be beat.” There’s a lot of hype about me right now; some media experts are saying I am unbeatable, but I know it's not true. I wouldn't bust my tail so hard in the gym if I was unbeatable.
I'll let my opponent continue to say he has my number. On April 21 he’ll realize he doesn’t even have my area code.
I love hearing from you guys. Tweet me @jonnybones.
Jon Jones defends his UFC Light Heavyweight World Title against No. 1 contender Rashad Evans on April 21, live on Pay-Per-View. Live preliminary fights will be live on FX.