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.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lance Pug­mire lance.pug­mire@la­times.com Twit­ter: @la­time­spug­mire

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.

Sean M. Haf­fey Getty Im­ages

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.

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