UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones recently made some waves with a long, drawn out back-and-forth over his reluctance to sign on for a rematch with No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson.
The story went that “Bones,” who was fresh off a one-sided decision win over Glover Teixeira in the main event of April’s UFC 172, was more inclined to look for a fight with No. 2 Daniel Cormier instead of facing “The Mauler” for a second time.
After all, Gustafsson took Jones to the limit during their UFC 165 classic last September, badly damaging him with a bevy of early round shots and even becoming the first man to take down the champion in the Octagon.
While many still feel that Gustafsson won that fight, Jones turned the tables in the later rounds, using his striking to batter the challenger with a fight-changing spinning back elbow in the fourth round. Despite the haters, Jones appeared on ESPN’s “MMA Live Extra” to discuss his view that UFC 165 was his greatest moment as champion:
"In some ways that Gustafsson fight was my strongest showing. To finish that fight the way I finished it and display the heart that I did to remain being the champion, to beat Tito Ortiz' record that very same night. I would give that one of my top showings.”
It’s hard to against that, as Jones truly showed the heart of a champion to lock up a unanimous decision amidst the controversy. He eventually signed on to face Gustafsson at UFC 178 on September 27. The dominant champion is hell-bent on proving that he is just that when he squares off with “The Mauler” for a second time:
“A successful showing for me (in the rematch) is just for me to go out there and dominate. I've been able to dominate everyone I've ever faced except for Gustafsson in that first fight and success for me is to not only win this fight, but to dominate it."
Anything less will have Jones’ haters clamoring that he can’t truly destroy a fighter his size, but there’s always going to be many detractors when you’re dealing with a polarizing champion like Jones.
Love him or hate him, you simply can’t deny that Jones, along with Ronda Rousey, is the biggest and most marketable star the UFC has in this odd post- Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre era.
And perhaps the role of heel is what suits him best.
Outer Photo: Kyle Terada for USA TODAY Sports