Jon Jones was the youngest champion in UFC history. He’s beaten former light heavyweight title holders Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rashad Evans, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort – all in dominant fashion.
Yet, in his mind, none of those accomplishments stack up to his last victory.
On Sept. 21 in Toronto, Jones rallied to beat challenger Alexander Gustafsson in a five-round war many believe will win Fight Of The Year. The champ’s eye was swollen shut, his top lip was busted and blown up and he damaged his foot. And he still won by unanimous decision.
Jones has gone back and watched the bout 25 times and it hasn’t even come close to getting old.
“That victory honestly means more to me than any other victory because of how hard-fought it was,” Jones said.
For a guy who’s only 26 years old, Jones talks a lot about his legacy. Battling back from adversity and winning one of the best fights in the history of the light heavyweight division only raises it.
So does this: appearing on the cover of a video game for the first time. It was announced Monday morning that Jones will grace the front of the UFC’s first-ever game with EA SPORTS.
Jones will soon have company: He’ll be joined on the cover by another UFC star, to be selected by the fans.
Voting for the second EA SPORTS UFC cover fighter begins today at UFC.com/covervote and will run until Dec. 1. The official retail cover featuring both fighters will be revealed during UFC 168, confirmed UFC officials.
The 16 candidates are Demetrious Johnson, Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo, Benson Henderson, Georges St-Pierre, Johny Hendricks, Chris Weidman, Junior dos Santos, Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, Anthony Pettis, Daniel Cormier, Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Gustafsson.
“It’s another one of those surreal moments, one of those moments you just have to step back and pinch yourself and realize I’m not dreaming,” Jones said of being selected.
The vote, sponsored by Metro PCS, consists of a weekly, round-by-round, head-to-head elimination tournament. Fans can vote as often as possible and double their voting power by using fighter-specific hashtags on “Twitter Vote Thursdays.” Each tweet with the proper hashtag will count as two votes.
Jones compared being on the game box to earning sponsorships with Nike and Gatorade and modeling for GQ. The upstate New York native has been an avid gamer since he was a kid playing with his brothers Arthur and Chandler, both now defensive ends in the NFL.
“Our parents were always working,” Jones said after an EA SPORTS cover shoot Friday at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. “They trusted that the video game systems would be our baby-sitter.”
Jones hasn’t gotten a chance to play the new game, which is set to come out in the spring on next-generation consoles PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. But from what he’s seen of the game play, it’s “one of the most realistic games out there right now.”
In that case, maybe he should avoid playing as himself. The first time he saw video-game Jon Jones get knocked out, Jones says he got sick to his stomach.
“I had to remind myself it was just a game,” Jones said with a laugh. “I remember not wanting to watch the instant replay.”
But somehow he’s able to watch his real life self and Gustafsson punch each other in the face over and over for five rounds. He’s looking forward to seeing the big Swede in the Octagon again, but next up is Glover Teixeira in March or April. No contract has been signed yet.
Jones figured he might be up in the heavyweight division sometime in 2014, but 205 seems to be where the action is with Gustafsson, Teixeira and possibly Cormier lined up for him. Cormier, who has exchanged a lot of trash talk with Jones, will have to cut from heavyweight.
“Cormier don’t want it,” Jones said, egging on his rival. … “Now that all this interest has been spread to the light heavyweight division, I think I’m going to stick around for awhile.”
There’s still plenty to be done for a guy who is already the greatest light heavyweight champion of all time with blue-chip sponsors never seen before in MMA. Being an EA SPORTS cover boy is another notch in the belt.
“I’m trying to achieve it all,” Jones said. “I’m trying to start a precedent for fighters of the future. I’m trying to give people a lot to live up to. This means a lot to me.”