Jon Jones is undoubtedly the greatest fighter of all time, and he’s doing his best to ensure his legacy will remain long after his days of fighting inside the cage are behind him.
Now just a few weeks removed from defeating the biggest rival of his professional career, besting then-light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier for the second time at UFC 214, Jones is on a warpath to eliminate all of the biggest criticisms surrounding his game inside the cage.
The first surrounds Jones’ ability to finish fights via knockout, or lack thereof.
That sentiment is a distant memory now, seeing as Jones became the first man to stop Cormier dead in his tracks in Anaheim, Calif., a few weeks back. That certainly wasn’t the case when the two first met at UFC 182 in January of 2015, the night Jones earned a unanimous decision to defeat Cormier for the first time. The sequel seemed destined to play out similarly to the original, only before Jones landed a swift kick to the head that sent Cormier into a backpedaling mess. He pounced, leaving the defending champion unconscious for the world to see.
It’s the first true knockout victory of Jones’ UFC career, and the champion’s first stoppage win in over four years, last earning a win before the final bell against Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 in April 2013. He’s now finished 70 percent of his fights, and seems primed to pick up more steam in the fights to come.
Speaking of fights to come, Jones addressed another criticism shortly after defeating Cormier, calling out one of the biggest and baddest men to ever walk the earth.
There are currently three men who stand far taller than the field in the “greatest of all time” discussion: Jones, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre. Silva and St-Pierre undoubtedly have two of the greatest resumes the sport, and particularly the UFC, has ever seen. One a middleweight champion who steamrolled past a long list of contenders, the other a tactical craftsman who outclassed a majority of his opposition as welterweight champion.
But there was something missing from both of their title reigns: a move up in weight.
Silva made a few appearances at 205 pounds, though each instance came against relatively beatable opposition. Though the world clamored for him to step into the cage with Jones, this super-fight never came to fruition. Silva argued it would impede upon his friendship with Jones, but it didn’t take a genius to realize how slim “The Spider’s” chances of winning that fight have been given their differing skill sets.
St-Pierre never moved up, only just recently deciding that a trip to the middleweight division would suit him now that Michael Bisping — arguably one of the least talented middleweight champions the UFC has ever had — is atop the division. When given the opportunity to feed the world arguably the biggest super-fight in company history, St-Pierre cited a lack of size as reason to forego a dance with Silva.
Both arguments are reasonably understood, but both cases will inevitably limit what heights the two could have reached by giving the fans what they wanted.
Jones, at this stage in his career, isn’t too caught up with what size limitations he would have when competing in the weight class above. Having dominated the ranks at 205 pounds for the better part of the last six years now, “Bones” feels it’s time to test the waters of the heavyweight division. He’s not looking to dip his toe, though — he wants the biggest name out there: Brock Lesnar.
Likely forced to cede about 40 pounds of size advantage to Lesnar if and when the two finally meet inside the Octagon, Jones would essentially be going against the very guidelines he previously offered fans when discussing a potential move up in weight. He long made the case for fighting a smaller-sized heavyweight, but now realizes what sort of selling potential a fight against a man of Lesnar’s size and popularity could bring.
Some fans may cry out to criticize Jones’ decision to face an aging former champion, and not the man currently on the throne, but they aren’t the ones who’ll be lining the light heavyweight champion’s pockets with the sort of financial security that’ll set his family up for life, either.
And, no, this doesn’t mean Jones is looking to bypass what feels like an inevitable showdown with Alexander Gustafsson. He wants that, too, realizing he must dispatch of the only fighter in company history that’s made him look remotely human.