Jon Jones' path to greatness won't be paved by fighting 'cans'
Mar 4, 2014 at 3:30p ET
During Anderson Silva's historic reign as UFC middleweight champion there were a few occasions during his career where the 185-pound king put on what some would call lackluster performances against fighters that maybe shouldn't have been in the cage with him in the first place.
These complacent outings yielded a lot of frustration from UFC president Dana White, but Silva's dominance against the best of the best couldn't be denied. Was it really just about the challenges he was facing? Did the UFC ask their championship eagle to fly amongst the pigeons too often?
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is doing his best to avoid being stuck competing against fighters that haven't necessarily done enough to earn a title shot. He wants to fight the No. 1 contender each and every time he steps foot in the Octagon to put his belt up for grabs, and the only way to earn that kind of opportunity is for those top ranked competitors to start facing each other more and more to whittle down the pack.
This even goes for former top ranked heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier, who recently dropped down to 205 pounds and picked up a dominant win in his first fight over newcomer Patrick Cummins. Despite Cormier's undefeated record and at least four wins over ranked heavyweights including two former UFC champions, Jones doesn't believe the two-time Olympian has done enough in his new weight division to warrant a title shot.
"I have no interest in fighting you right now only because you really haven't fought anyone that I can consider a top level fighter," Jones said addressing Cormier directly. "I'm kind of getting sick of seeing UFC light heavyweights fight against kind of like cans until they get a title shot. I really want to see a top contender fight a top contender. I think you need to fight someone a little bit more well known that Patrick Cummins. Fight against Rashad (Evans), fight against somebody legit and then I think it would be a little more appropriate to give you that title shot."
Jones looks at fighters like Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira as the real top contenders in the division right now. He will face the latter at UFC 172 in April, and if Gustafsson wins this weekend in London, then the Swede will once again battle for the UFC light heavyweight title.
It was his past fight against Gustafsson that taught Jones to really appreciate everything he has in the sport, and to work even harder to keep it.
"That Gustafsson fight really lit a fire under my butt and I'm just taking things a lot more serious than I used to," Jones said. "I feel like the fire and passion is just stronger than ever."
At 26-years of age, Jones has already done more than any light heavyweight in UFC history with six consecutive title defenses and 10 wins in a row overall. By the close of 2015, Jones could easily be staring down Anderson Silva's UFC record 10 straight title defenses, and with 13 wins in the UFC currently he could catch up to Georges St-Pierre's record 19 wins before too long also.
Jones is already ranked as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport so it's not hard to argue that one day soon he could be referred to as the greatest in the history of MMA. This could all happen before Jones reaches his 30th birthday.
He's humbled by the notion that he could attain that status in just a few short years, but the only way to ensure he gets there is to continue to work hard, fight the best of the best in his division, and never forget that it can all go away with one single loss.
"It doesn't get much reaction out of me because it's just the world that I'm living in," Jones says when asked about being mentioned in the best of all time category. "It's the world that I've put myself into through hard work, dedication, and just playing the game at a high level and just working hard to be able to play at a high level. It's not a matter of pressure to me.
"It's just something that can be, and something I'm aware that I need to work extremely hard to achieve. To answer your question, it excites me. It excites me because I know I'm working hard and I know that's a possibility to be true one day, and what a great honor it would be."
Throughout the course of his UFC career, Jones has been a bit of an enigma when it comes to dealing with the media or even interactions through social networks like Twitter. Ever since he became champion in 2011, Jones' frequency to grant interviews has lessened and he opted to avoid controversy by just not evoking a response to anyone's pokes and prods.
His demeanor has changed a lot lately, however, as Jones realizes that being the UFC light heavyweight champion at 26 years of age is supposed to be an honor, but it's also supposed to be fun. At some point, Jones forgot that his job was also his greatest pleasure and remembering how much he loves what he does everyday brought him back around to the new person he is today.
Whether it's posting a dance video on Facebook or just responding to fans online, Jones isn't as worried these days about how he's perceived in the public light. He's just loving life being Jon Jones.
"I stopped caring. I stopped caring as much," Jones said. "I know everyone cares about their brand and image, but for the most part I just stopped caring. I just learned to be myself and just be happy, be goofy. Do the things you want to do and as long as you're training hard and giving your best foot forward, I think everything else will just sort of take care of itself.
"It was funny my manager called me and he said 'I remember when you used to question everything before you posted it and now you just seem like you don't care'. It's true, I've really learned to just let go. I'm just a lot more comfortable in my own skin and in my place in the sport."