Gene pool looked kindly on UFC champ Jones and NFL siblings
It wasn't as if the New England quarterback envisioned getting any production for his offense from the 6-foot-5-inch, 265-pounder out of Syracuse University. Jones is a defensive end, after all. As it turned out, though, he did play an indispensable role in putting points on the board in his first professional game two weekends ago. The speedy pass rusher got to Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker near the Titans goal line and stripped him of the football, which fellow first-round pick Dont'a Hightower picked up and ran in for a Patriots touchdown.
A little less work for the offense to do in what ended up as a runaway 34-13 victory.
But that's not the only reason Brady likes having Jones around. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champion also is a fan ... of the rookie's brother.
"Chandler tells me Tom Brady is a huge MMA fan," said Jon Jones, who will defend his light heavyweight championship against Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC 152 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET, PPV). And on Sunday morning he will fly to Baltimore for that evening's Ravens-Patriots game.
And not root for Tom Brady.
The fighter known as "Bones" will indeed be a Patriots fan when Chandler and the defense are on the field. But when the offense has the ball, Jon will be cheering on a Baltimore D that, like New England's, features a certain exterior lineman named Jones. Arthur Jones, that is, a 26-year-old in his third year with the Ravens, and the older brother of Jon, 25, and Chandler, 22.
Forget split allegiances. What has Jon Jones' head spinning is that, one day removed from a brain-scrambling cage fight, he will be required to pay closer attention to a football game than perhaps ever before. "I'm not the most diehard football fan," said the UFC champ. "So when I've gone to Arthur's games, I've mostly just followed him on defense and not watched too closely when the offense was out there. But now that both Arthur and Chandler are playing, I'll be entertained hopefully on every play of the game."
While wishing for a 0-0 game made miserable for both quarterbacks by the Jones brothers?
"I don't necessarily want a 0-0 game," said Jon Jones. "I definitely want one of my brothers to win, and I'm interested in who has the better individual game -- more tackles, more sacks. Arthur and Chandler are very competitive. They're best friends, so they're competitive in a good way. But whoever does better Sunday night will definitely roast the other. I'm going to enjoy that."
With two brothers in the NFL, and considering the speed, strength and agility he has exhibited inside the octagon, did Jon have what it takes to keep up with the other Joneses in football? He did play in his senior year at Union-Endicott High in Endicott, N.Y., where Arthur and Chandler starred before both went on to Syracuse, "but I absolutely sucked," said the fighter. "I was terrible at football. I didn't remember the plays, so I would line up at defensive end and just try to get through the line. I'd be doing swim moves on running plays. I was just terrible."
Wrestling was his passion, and Jon became a New York state champion his senior year and went on to capture a junior college national championship. From there he began martial arts training, and the rest is a still-unfolding history: a 16-1 MMA record, the only loss being a dubious disqualification, and three dominant title defenses after becoming, at 23, the youngest champion in UFC history. (Of course, long before Jones became a phenom, his opponent Saturday night was known as "The Phenom." Vitor Belfort knows a little bit about early success, having won a UFC heavyweight tournament -- though not a title belt -- when he was 19. That was back in 1997 ... when Jones was 9.)
The next phenom in MMA, if Jon Jones is to be believed, could very well be Arthur. The eldest Jones brother was a two-time state champ as a high school wrestler. And even though he left the mat behind long ago when college football beckoned, he's spent part of the last couple of NFL offseasons training in MMA alongside his brother the UFC champ. "Arthur has a tremendous amount of potential in martial arts," said Jon. "He has phenomenal wrestling skills, he's a fast learner, he has a great work ethic. I just think he's a natural fighter."
Arthur's current fight, though, is for playing time on the Ravens defensive line. The 2010 fifth-round draft choice's role has become more prominent with each passing season, but the NFL is not exactly a model of job security. Football is "Arthur's passion in life," said Jon Jones. But if that career were to end up as a dead end, said Jon, "Arthur wouldn't hesitate to pursue mixed martial arts."
But don't worry, little brother. Your legacy in the 205-pound weight class would be safe. Arthur Jones is listed on the Ravens roster at 310 pounds. "The dedication that it would take for him to get down to the 265 heavyweight limit," said Jon, " I think it would transform him mentally into the warrior he needs to be to compete at a high level. And he would be faster than ever and mentally a stronger person. I think he would make a great contender, if not champion, in the UFC."
Chandler, too? "Nah," said Jon Jones, "Chandler's not a fighter, other than when we play slap boxing games in our mom's and dad's backyard." Good news for Bill Belichick.
The youngest Jones brother did actually follow his brothers onto a wrestling mat while in elementary school. In eighth grade, he was good enough that the coaches at Union-Endicott had him work out with their varsity and junior varsity. "But at one of his first practices Chandler went with one of our good friends, a kid named Earl, and the kid took him down and put this move called a double grapevine on Chandler," recalled Jon. "It stretched his hip flexors pretty badly, hurt him. I think it actually made him cry. And he was just like, 'You know what? I'm tall and black. Everyone thinks I should be on the basketball team anyway.' So he tried out, and in his second year he became captain of the basketball team. He's always been a natural at every sport he's tried."
Chandler is certainly looking like a natural in the NFL. Through two games he's had 10 tackles, and along with the strip-sack of Locker in Week 1 he also forced a fumble in last Sunday's loss to Arizona and raised the anxiety level of Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb. What does he have in store for Baltimore's Joe Flacco on Sunday? And how will Arthur Jones contribute to making the evening unpleasant for MMA fan Tom Brady?
Jon Jones will be watching it all unfold from a seat in M&T Bank Stadium. He might be a little sore, perhaps will show some bruising from his workday the previous night up in Canada, but it's all a part of being a loving brother. "When it's not football season, Arthur and Chandler are there for my fights, front row and center, rocking 'Jon Bones Jones' T-shirts," said Jon. "They are gigantic supporters, and that's what I'm going to be for them on Sunday night. My brothers are proud of me. And I'm proud of them."