In the lead up to UFC 135 Jones V Rampage, JOE got an opportunity to catch up with the man many think is the successor to Anderson Silva’s ‘pound for pound’ greatest crown.
By Fergus Ryan
If you cast your eye over Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones fight record you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a man in a hurry to get things done.
Jones was signed by the UFC after compiling a 6-0 record in four months. His first UFC fight was taken on two weeks’ notice and two years later, after going 5-1 in the UFC, Jones landed a title contender eliminator fight against Ryan Bader.
After blowing Bader aside, he was then fast tracked to a title shot after an injury forced Rashad Evans out of his championship fight with Shogun Rua. After one of the most one sided and devastating beatings in a title fight, Jon Jones was crowned the new UFC light-heavyweight champion three years into his MMA career, at the tender age of 24, the youngest in the promotion’s history.
When you speak to the man, his relaxed tones suggest he’s never rushed anything in his whole life. He reveals his favourite saying at the moment is ‘enjoy the process’.
Training is going phenomenal man; in fact it’s going perfect. I’ve just sparred all morning against top UFC fighters and I don’t think I lost a round!
“When I wake up and feel like I can’t train five times in the one day again, like I’ve no energy or strength, like my life is just being repetitive I say to myself: ‘Jon, enjoy the process’. It’s about the journey, not the destination. If you can’t find a bright-side to the thing you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
When JOE spoke to Jon Jones, it was lunchtime in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he trains at Greg Jackson’s legendary MMA gym. He was just after spending the morning sparring with the elite level fighters that train at Jackson’s.
When asked how his camp was going, Jones was emphatic. “Training is going phenomenal man; in fact it’s going perfect. I’ve just sparred all morning against top UFC fighters and I don’t think I lost a round! I’m doing some fitness work this afternoon, which I’m really looking forward to.”
This set the tone for a 20-minute phone call bursting with positivity. With such a rapid rise in the teak tough sport of MMA, it’s hardly surprising Jones possesses such tremendous confidence in his abilities.
Exploring the roots to Jones’ greatness reveals an underlying self-belief he always had. “I have always had a feeling I could be ‘great’ but I didn’t know how much to believe in it,” he says.
“I used to tell myself all the time ‘one day I’ll be champion’ and after sayin’ it so many times I guess I spoke it into existence. I made a conscious effort to train like a champion, speak like a champion, act like a champion and to treat others as if I was a champion. Like, years ago my voicemail message was something like ‘Hey, what’s up, its Jon, your friend and champion. Please leave your name and message after the tone.”
If winning can be a habit it probably starts with having a winning mind-set, which has certainly worked out for Jones. It started with focusing on winning his State wrestling championship in high school, which he achieved. His focus then turned to becoming a Division 1 college wrestling champion, but a change in plans came with the unexpected birth of his daughter.
Having put his academic career on hold to look after his family, it was the enthusiasm of his old junior college buddies that led him into MMA.
“I used to get together with my buddies on campus at Fort Dodge, Iowa, to watch UFC’s. They were just UFC obsessed and I would see these guys just going crazy, cheering on Chuck Liddell. I thought I had the assets and the mind-set to make it in this sport so I decided to try and become a UFC fighter.
“I put all my commitment, drive and focus that I’d had for the Division 1 championship and transformed it into an even bigger desire to make it the UFC.”
If you compare Jones’ career to most other MMA fighters, he has packed an incredible amount into his first four years. But for Jones, time is relative.
“You could call my rise quick but to me it wasn’t an overnight success. I’ve worked hard and trained consistently for four years. I’ve tried to train for every conceivable circumstance you could be in in a fight. And so when you’ve put the time I have into achieving your goals the success doesn’t seem to have come that quick.
I do plan on getting to Ireland and hopefully real soon.
“Sport can be like treading water sometimes, you’re constantly moving but you’re not in motion, you’re going with the flow of the water. That’s why it’s important that you enjoy the process.”
Jones ability to remain balanced in the face of success equally applies to dealing with the adversity, however minor, that he’s come up against in his MMA career. On the acrimonious departure of Rashad Evans from Jackson, Jones believes “it’s brought us closer together as a team”.
On ‘Rampage’ Jackson’s accusations that the Jones camp are spying – “it's just a silly distraction and an attempt to sell more tickets”.
This brings us to Jones’ next fight against Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson at UFC 135. Rampage will possibly be the first opponent that will not be fazed by the air of invincibility that Jones has created. “Rampage poses many threats as a fighter and its going to be a great fight. I’m looking forward to the challenge and goal is to have fun but to finish the fight also.”
Jon Jones signs off with some words for the Irish MMA community. He was due to hold a series of MMA seminars in Ireland during the summer but had to cancel.
“I was booked to do seminars all over the world, all summer. And while this was a great opportunity for me it meant I wasn’t seeing my family but also I wasn’t getting to train. So, when the surgery (on his injured hand that forced him out of the Rashad Evans bout) was cancelled I had to reign back on the seminars and unfortunately some people were let down. I do plan on getting to Ireland and hopefully real soon.”