UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones has had quite an action-packed year, and he’s only stepped in the cage once, picking apart noted power slugger Glover Teixeira in the main event of April’s UFC 172.
After that, however, things got a bit messy, as Jones stalled on what was supposed to be a clear rematch with No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson, who infamously took “Bones” to the limit in their UFC 165 classic from September 2013.
Jones was thought to be in contract negotiations, then Dana White said he was stalling in order to fight Daniel Cormier instead, and finally he signed to face “The Mauler” at UFC 178 on September 27, citing a time conflict with his brother’s wedding as the reason for the hold up.
Unfortunately the bout disappeared when Gustafsson was forced out with surgery on his right meniscus, prompting Cormier to step in and replace “The Mauler.” Undefeated and ranked at No. 2 after destroying Dan Henderson and Patrick Cummins in his only two light heavyweight bouts, former Olympic wrestler Cormier presents what could be the toughest test of “Bones’” illustrious reign.
But true to form, the champion doesn’t seem too worried despite getting cut in training last week. He appeared on today’s The MMA Hour to discuss how his injury is already on the mend:
“I was working out with a teammate. He gave me a pretty good head-butt. Now I have a little gash over my right eye, got four stitches. The laceration is completely closed now, so it’s completely fine.”
The champ then moved on to elaborate on his pending showdown with “”DC,” noting that it’s a fresh challenge with many additional dynamics:
“Um, yeah, you know, this fight definitely interests me a lot more than Gustafsson. I feel like I have something to prove to the MMA community when it comes to Gustafsson. I wasn’t able to perform at my greatest ability, so I do owe Gustafsson a severe beating, but at the same time, to conquer someone else that I’ve never fought before, a whole new level of trash talk. New strategy, new studying, new techniques, new tactics, it’s just refreshing, and I’m excited to conquer a new challenge.”
Jones also said that Cormier has the potential to give him a very tough test, but at the end of the day, “Bones” believes he will dominate him:
“They’re both very tough in their own ways; I’ve never fought someone with the wrestling credentials that Daniel Cormier has. It’s just hard to say; I haven’t fought Daniel yet. I believe Daniel could give me the fight of a lifetime, or I could simply go out there and dominate him; put on a total clinic. I believe I will dominate him, stylistically, I don’t think he what it takes, but obviously I will have to prove that September 27.”
Cormier only cut down to 205 pounds this year, and he’s also dealing with a knee injury that he was scheduled to undergo surgery for prior to Gustafsson pulling out. Jones believes Cormier will need many things to fall in place in order for him to win at UFC 178:
“I think he’s going to get himself prepared to the best of his abilities. But as far as being fit, I mean, we all see what he looks like, so maybe we shoulda had a better choice of words. I don’t think he’s in the greatest of shape. I think he has a lot on his plate. Not only does he have to lose weight, get in shape, but he’s going to have to focus on his tactics to be able to beat me, I just think it’s a tall order.”
A tall order it is, as “Bones” has dominated most of the top-level opponents he’s faced, and those who had him in trouble were met with a severe amount of heart and resistance.
However, the polarizing champion has been under an intense amount of criticism, both for his supposedly arrogant attitude and his fighting style, which has been deemed dirty due to repeated eye pokes. Jones took the time to dispel that notion:
“I’m not a malicious fighter. A lot of people think I’m a dirty fighter. Really not a malicious person. I stomp everybody’s knees. It’s a tactic that I’ve been trained by my trainers to do, and I’m sure I will stomp him on the knee at some point, but like I said, it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s had previous injuries; that’s just who I am and who I fight.”
The champion elaborated on the eye pokes, admitting that he doesn’t intend to hurt his opponents with them and is working to fix it:
“I never said I don’t believe it’s dirty. It’s just something I do instinctually, it’s something that I need to work on, and it’s just something that happens. But like I said, I realize that I do it, I realize the criticism that I’ve gotten from it. It’s not on purpose. If you watch my fights, you know, a lot of times when guys get poked in the eyes, it’s me extending my arm out in a reactionary way. To say that I’m purposely poking people in the eye is inaccurate. You can call it what you want.”
Show host Ariel Helwani asked Jones if he thought Cormier could be the Frazier to his Ali, but he assigned that distinction to Gustafsson:
“If anybody’s the Frazier to my Ali, I would say it was Alexander Gustafsson because of the war he put me through. And I’m excited to do better the second time.”
Because of that, Jones said he wants to fight Gustafsson next to silence all the critics that remain from their first fight:
“I would love to fight Alexander Gustafsson right after this fight. I signed the papers to fight him; he got injured. I feel as though I have unfinished business with Alexander. I’m excited to silence some critics. You know the Chael Sonnen situation, UFC 151, you know, beating him after canceling UFC 151 was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had, and I’m excited to have a similar feeling when I officially close up the Alexander Gustafsson chapter.”
Jones closed with a reaffirmation of his heart, declaring that he will fight aggressively and come out on top in the pivotal fall bout:
“Let him do what he has to do, it won’t stop me. My heart is unmatched. I will be relentless, I will keep moving forward, and I will win this fight.”
Strong words from the decorated champ. Will he keep the belt against Cormier next month?
Photo: Brad Penner for USA TODAY Sports