Jon “Bones” Jones completed his triumphant return at UFC 214. Once a pariah and disgraced champion, Jones climbed out of the abyss to reclaim the light heavyweight championship on Saturday. It was like CerseiLannister leaving the dungeon, marching through the streets amid chants of shame, eventually blowing up the Sept of Baelor and taking a seat on the iron throne.
But we should greet Jones's title reign with cautious optimism. UFC president Dana White once said he didn’t trust Jones to headline another pay-per-view. Jones has previously returned from a suspension to only find himself in trouble once again, vacating two titles a year apart.
Jones is promising a new version of himself as the second title reign of his career begins.
“This fight feels like my first championship ever, almost. Because I feel like I have a new beginning,” Jones said at the post-fight press conference. “I went through such a dark period and depression and all these things. And now the light is here at the end of the tunnel and I feel like I’m leaving my past behind me. And I’m erasing everything that I’ve done before.
“I feel like this is a start to a new career, a new championship. I feel like I want to be a better champion than I was in the past. So, I feel like a new champion. This is my time to start all over and to be a better champion and be the champion that the fans deserve.”
This isn’t the first time fans have been promised a renewed Jones.
After defeating Cormier UFC 182, Jones wore a shirt after defeating Cormier at UFC 182 that read “Unbroken.” It was a rebuttal of Cormier’s pledge to break “Bones” Jones. In the cage Jones taunted Cormier the final bell with a “suck it” gesture. In post-fight interviews Jones took joy in Cormier’s tears.
But after UFC 214, Jones sung the praises of Cormier in front of the Honda Center crowd and audience at home, even attempting to console him in the cage.
“I want to take this time to thank Daniel Cormier for being my biggest rival and motivator,” Jones told Joe Rogan in the cage. “He has absolutely no reason to hang his head. He has been a model champion, a model husband, a model father, teammate, leader and I aspire to be a lot more like that man because he is an amazing human being.
“Unfortunately we’re opponents, but outside of that he is a true champion for the rest of his life.”
The “Unbroken” message, once a jab at a rival, has become a sort of personal mantra.
Jones is also vowing to improve inside the cage. He was critical of his performance and pinpointed areas where he could improve—a terrifying thought for light heavyweight contenders.
He rightly believes he is entering the prime of his career, hopefully he takes advantage and lives up to his potential of greatest of all time.
“I made it back. It’s such a beautiful moment, and I did a lot of right things to get in this position,” Jones said. “I tell you what. Anybody at home who let yourself down, let your family down, your peers down, your co-workers down, it’s never over. As long as you never quit, it’s never over.”
Fans have seen a humble Jones before, but this time we hope it is here for good.
Other UFC 214 Nuggets
• Jon Jones called out Brock Lesnar after UFC 214 right before the cameras shut off.
"Be careful what you wish for, young man,” Lesnar responded in a statement to Greg Beacham of the Associated Press.
On Monday night at Raw, two days later, the hype intensified when Paul Heyman, Lesnar’s advocate in the WWE, told fans he’d leave if he lost the title at SummerSlam.
There are reports a fight wouldn’t happen till the summer of 2018 anyway.
• The UFC will host its first event in mainland China, on Nov. 25 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
• The UFC also announced its end of year schedule, confirming a return to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4 for UFC 217.
• Michael Bisping has been awarded the fight against Georges St-Pierre, according to UFC president Dana White at UFC 214. On his “Believe You Me Podcast,” Bisping said this fight will headline UFC 217 at MSG.
• Alexander Gustafsson called out Jones after UFC 214. Gustafsson famously gave Jones trouble in perhaps his closest fight to date.
Extra Rounds: Interview with Din Thomas, Tyron Woodley’s coach
Five Questions With Jose Youngs of FanSided
1. Jon Jones promises to be “the champion fans deserve.” Will we see a different Jones?
I have to tell you, Jon Jones’s attitude in the following days leading up to his grudge match against Daniel Cormier really won me over. While the two did have their heated moments during the pre-fight press conference in downtown Los Angeles, Jones really seemed to turn a corner during his final media scrum the next day.
Gone was the former champion who tried to fist fight Cormier in the lobby of a hotel. Gone was the man who mocked Cormier with D-X chop while expressing his desire to hear his opponent was crying in the back. Gone were the moments of “I will literally kill you” when discussing Cormier.
Instead, Jones stood in front of the media and shocked everyone as he heaped praise onto Cormier’s shoulders before revealing he would have no issues shaking hands with him at the conclusion of their fight (which he actually did).
So is Jon Jones finally turning a new leaf? He’s certainly acting the part and saying all of the right things. But personally, given the fact I’ve fallen for this charade far too many times, I want to see how these next few weeks pan out before I’m willing to believe Jones.
2. What is Daniel Cormier’s legacy now?
Daniel Cormier will forever be remembered as the second greatest light heavyweight who ever lived. He just had the misfortune of competing at the same time as the greatest to ever step into the cage.
As Jones perfectly stated: “I wish [Cormier] was just man enough to see that he's f---ing around with the wrong era. He just so happened to come into the sport, he's 39 years old, and he's f---ing with a guy who is in his prime."
Here was a man who dominated the world of amateur wrestling. So much so, his body gave out at the finish line, leaving him unable to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Just making it that far is enough to applaud. But instead, Cormier dove headfirst into another sport and climbed the ranks faster than almost any heavyweight or light heavyweight in history (outside of my man Volkan Oezdemir).
He is an exceptional human being, a fantastic analyst, a world-class champion and whether he decides to continued fighting or not, I am positive he will succeed in whatever path he chooses.
3. Is Dana White in the wrong about Tyron Woodley or do fighters need to entertain the crowd?
I see both sides of this argument. On one side, Tyron Woodley simply put together the perfect game plan against world-class grappler Demian Maia. Was it an exciting performance? Not even close. But in the end, Woodley kept his belt and negated Maia’s submission game. The same submission game that put away fighters like Carlos Condit, Rick Story and Neil Magny.
But on the flip side, the fans in attendance hated the fight. They actually started the wave in the fourth round. Sitting cageside, I could see Dana fuming as the crowd collectively flashed camera lights at the Octagon.
So it’s a thin line between executing your game plan and entertaining the crowd. This is a competition after all. So I don’t blame Woodley one bit for not engaging Maia, but White’s comments about fans not wanting to see his champion fight is a little much. Combine this with the fact Woodley also saw his promised fight against Georges St-Pierre, and the massive payday, taken away from him, and it’s hard for me to side with the UFC’s head honcho.
4. Should Georges St-Pierre fight Tyron Woodley or Michael Bisping?
Another difficult question. Personally, I want to see Georges St-Pierre return to the welterweight division and challenge for the belt he never technically lost. I also want to see Michael Bisping actually defend his belt against a real challenge at middleweight. This a sport and should be treated as such. But in the end, it’s also a business, and Dana White is not in the money-losing business. A fight between Woodley and St-Pierre would do big numbers but a fight against Bisping would blow it out of the water.
The banter between the level headed St-Pierre and the brash talking Englishman that is Michael Bisping could double the number of pay-per-views alone. Add that to the fact St-Pierre is looking to make history as the fourth fighter in UFC history to hold belts in two different weight classes, and the writing is on the wall for a big money fight at Madison Square Garden.
5. Who wins this Saturday: Brandon Moreno or Sergio Pettis? And does the winner get a shot at the flyweight title next?
God, I wish I had seen Sergio Pettis face Henry Cejudo at UFC 211 in May. Pettis is easily the bigger name, given his brother Anthony is a former lightweight champion, and he's riding a three-fight win streak in the Octagon. However, the former bantamweight has been anything but consistent, as he’s lost fights in the past that should have pushed him into contention. A win over Cejudo would have put all these questions to bed.
Moreno, on the other hand is one of the better stories this year. With wins over veterans like Dustin Ortiz and Louis Smolka, as well as Ryan Benoit, the man who handed Pettis his last loss, the Mexican could easily make an argument for the next title shot.
But given this is in Mexico, a city notorious for sucking the cardio out a fighter, my money has to be on the native Moreno.
Official prediction: Brandon Moreno by third round submission.