Jon Jones feels good. If things weren’t bad enough for the rest of the light heavyweight division over the last nine years, knowing that the champion is entering the Octagon without any worries could be frightening.
“I feel like I’m finally getting in a nice groove of life in the spotlight,” said Jones, who defends his 205-pound belt against Dominick Reyes in the main event of UFC 247 on Saturday. “I feel like I have stepped to the plate in many ways, I have a greater understanding of my responsibility and who I am. I’m not a perfect guy, but I’m at a good place. I’m exactly where I need to be. And it’s exciting.”
Again, not exciting for Reyes and company, who may have hoped in the past that Jones’ life outside the Octagon would interfere with what happened on fight night, but with smooth seas ahead, the best may still be yet to come for the 32-year-old, who wants nothing more than to be active from here on out.
“I love being a fighter,” said Jones, who put three bouts together in the period from December 2018 to July 2019, beating Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos.
“The last year has been great,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to get a nice string of wins, starting with Alexander Gustafsson, who was my biggest rival. And to get past him the way I did, it just goes to show you where life’s heading. That felt so good to me. It was a big test in my life that showed myself a lot. Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith are great fighters who a lot of people were expecting a lot out of, and I proved a lot to myself and to the fans that I’m ready for the next wave of talent.”
That wave is led by the unbeaten Reyes, who is perfect in six trips to the Octagon, including knockouts of Chris Weidman and Jared Cannonier. And while Jones is shockingly the elder statesman in this bout against the 30-year-old Californian, he’s embracing being the veteran at the top of the division.
“I want to get these guys while they’re young, while they’re confident, so I can crush their confidence now and then in the rematch we’ll have a nice blueprint to really, really crush them,” said Jones, who expects to get a fight out of “The Devastator.”
“I predict that I’m going to get the absolute best Dominick Reyes, but that’s what you get when you’re fighting a contender in his first title shot. You get the best version of that person. That’s all I’m used to.”
That can make anyone lose a little sleep, but Jones has been doing this for so long at the elite level that every fight is just another day in the office.
“The lead into it, there’s definitely a calm over me,” he said. “The best way to deal with nervousness is to know that you’re trying to outwork your competition and knowing that you’re truly doing everything in your power to be the best. And when you’re doing your true best, there’s no reason to feel nervous.”
Jones laughs, referring to Reyes’ assertion that he got into the New York native’s head during their first staredown at a press conference in December.
“It’s funny, since I’ve been 23 years old, I’ve had to teach myself to look some of the most dangerous men in the eyes and let them know that I’m here.”
Jon Jones is here. And he doesn’t plan on going anywhere. Sure, there’s talk of a move to heavyweight in the future, but if that doesn’t happen, he’s more than willing to keep taking out all 205-pound contenders in his way.
“I feel like in the eyes of the fans I’ve cleaned out the light heavyweight division, but as a martial artist, you know that the division can never be cleared,” Jones said. “As long as you have a man standing in front of you that has his hands up and chin down, believing he can win the fight, the division can never be cleared.”
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