UFC’s Jones finds success on the straight and narrow
Personal troubles put his career on hold, but good decisions could lead to huge paydays.
Jon Jones says he’s learned from more than two years of travails that life is best navigated by making good decisions “one by one.”
Doing so Saturday night in his anticipated rematch against Daniel Cormier allowed Jones to reclaim his UFC light-heavyweight belt by third-round technical knockout. That glory inspired Jones to decide to amplify his call for a showdown with popular WWE performer and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
“It’ll definitely bring more general public to mixed martial arts and that’s what we need, to expand our sport,” Jones said late Saturday night at the Honda Center.
While fighting just once in 30 months because of a series of transgressions that included illicit drug use, a car crash that injured a pregnant woman and a positive test for a performanceenhancing drug, the 30-yearold Jones said he marveled at the self-promotion skills of two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, who talked his way into an Aug. 26 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“Conor McGregor has been a tremendous inspiration to me. He has shown me these huge paydays — $100 million — are possible,” Jones said. “Saying ‘Brock Lesnar’ gets the world excited for an MMA fight.
“My manager said, ‘That’s a big payday,’ and my coaches said, ‘Jon, you can win that fight. You’ll have to dig deep.’ ”
Jones did so against Cormier, splitting the first two rounds on two judges’ scorecards because Cormier landed heavy punches to the head at the end of the first round and during the second.
In the third, Jones landed kicks to the head, midsection and leg to send Cormier to the canvas, where Jones pounded the 38-year-old with 18 unanswered blows to the head, causing a concussion.
“It feels surreal to be back up here,” Jones said at his news conference, his old belt placed before him. “We made a shirt that said, ‘Unbroken,’ and I made that my life motto, to believe in your dreams no matter if you get sidetracked.”
While he’ll have to wait until at least early 2018 for a fight against Lesnar, who was suspended after testing positive for a performanceenhancing drug last year, Jones (23-1) returned to draw Saturday what UFC president Dana White said was tracking to become a pay-per-view broadcast with more than 1 million buys.
The former champion who successfully defended his belt eight times will likely stage a rematch with toprated Alexander Gustafsson before a Lesnar fight.
“I truly believe Jon Jones is the best to ever do it, and if he had not had these things go wrong in his personal life, God knows who he would’ve beat, how he would’ve done by now,” White said. “To come off such a huge layoff to do what he did tonight … it’s good to have him back.”
In an added boon to his business, White will also have former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre back from his four-year retirement by the end of the year, either fighting Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden during UFC 217 or Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas during UFC 219.
Instead of fighting Tyron Woodley, who defeated Demian Maia in an underwhelming performance for the welterweight title, White said he decided that St-Pierre will instead meet middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
Woodley took pride in stopping Maia’s seven-fight winning streak and denying all 24 of his takedown tries, but White focused on the boos during a bout that offered the least amount of strikes ever thrown in a fiveround title match.
“It’s easy to say a win is a win, but when you get booed out of an arena, it means people don’t want to watch you fight. That’s how you make a living,” White said of Woodley after earlier in the week promising Woodley a St-Pierre date with a victory. “He is a physical specimen, but he didn’t want to take the risks. You take no risks, you get no rewards. … I know Michael Bisping will show up and fight, so we’re going to give it to him.”
Woodley will likely be assigned a rematch with former champion Robbie Lawler, who defeated former lightweight title challenger Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone by unanimous decision Saturday.
“I know the fans want to see blood, they want to see cuts, they want to see back and forth, but you also have to recognize I’m fighting a specialist,” Woodley said. “I’m not going to try to prove I need a black belt. I stuck to the game plan and walk around with my head up with the belt around my waist.
“[St-Pierre] should have to fight me. He doesn’t want to because I’m a better version of him. Let him run, but whoever you put in front of me, I’m going to run through them and by default I’ll be the best welterweight of all time.”
New women’s featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino boosted her case as the best female fighter yet with a dominating third-round knockout of Tonya Evinger.
White said a bout with former bantamweight champion Holly Holm could be next for “Cyborg.”
“That was quite a thing, like finishing a movie with a happy ending,” Justino said after her drawn-out pursuit of a UFC belt.
JON JONES, shown elbowing Daniel Cormier during UFC 214, will likely have to wait until early 2018 to get a much-desired bout against Brock Lesnar.