12 Questions for Jon Jones

Intro to MMA

By Jack Encarnacao and UFC.com Dec 2, 2009
Jon Jones sounds almost as surprised to say it as people are to hear it.

"I started training, not fighting but learning how to fight, about a year and a half ago," he said. "It has been two years, actually. I remember Christmas break, I'm done with school, and I decided not to go back for a semester. This is about my two-year anniversary. Everything happens for a reason. Everything just falls into place, you know."

It’s apparent, however, that things would not have simply fallen into place had it not been for Jones' virtuoso talents. One would be hard pressed to find another 22-year-old mixed martial artist who can be branded, just nine fights into his career and without a hint of overstatement, the future of the sport.

Whether or not the Endicott, N.Y.-bred Jones can realize that promise depends on if he can continue to impress with increasingly higher stakes. On Saturday, he takes on Matt Hamill in the featured contest of Spike TV's "Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale" special from Las Vegas. It's Jones’ free TV debut and, before an exceptionally large audience likely to be brought to the table by Kimbo Slice, it could prove a defining fight in Jones' potentially brilliant career.

Jones, who this summer began training with the highly regarded Greg Jackson camp in New Mexico, took some time to answer a dozen questions from Sherdog.com about this Saturday's fight.

Sherdog.com: Your opponent, Matt Hamill, was first introduced to MMA fans as a cast member on "The Ultimate Fighter 3" in 2006. What were you doing then?
Jones: In 2006 I was winning a national title (in wrestling) at Iowa Central Community College. My focus was on being a Division 1 national wrestling champion at Iowa State University. That's the only thing that mattered to me. I was a freshman in college, just trying to keep it real and learning myself, learning how to be an athlete. I was growing into my body a little bit.

Sherdog.com: How does a kid from Endicott end up in Iowa, one of the nation's wrestling hotbeds?
Jones: I had worked real hard. It was always my dream to be a New York state champ. My senior year I finally achieved that goal, which invited me to the national championship tournament for seniors only. I was ranked 11th in the country and I ended up taking 4th. I got looked at by a lot of Division 1 colleges.

I honestly didn't have the grades out of high school to be a Division 1 athlete. Iowa State and Iowa, they were looking at me, and they said, “Let's keep this kid in Iowa.” They got me into an Iowa junior college.

I was roommates with a guy named Joe Soto (today the Bellator Fighting Championships featherweight champion). His dream was always to be an MMA fighter. We stayed in the same room, and that kid would just sit there and watch YouTube videos and have fighting on all the time. He kind of introduced me to the sport, but I had no interest in fighting whatsoever. Honestly, I thought he was kind of crazy for being so brave to fight people.

Now, we both ended up being pretty decent martial artists. It's pretty crazy how it worked out.

Sherdog.com: What career track were you on before MMA?
Jones: I was studying criminal justice and I wanted to be a law enforcement officer in my hometown. Endicott, New York, man. I thought it would be so cool to be a hometown police officer.

I've always been a person who tries to do the right thing in life, for the most part. I'm no angel, but I was always the kid who snitched on the kids who had pot. I don't want to offend the pot smokers out there, but I was kind of just a snitch. I was just down for people doing the right thing. My parents kind of raised me to be a good guy. I've always been down for the good side, I guess.

Sherdog: Talk about your faith and the role it's played in your ascension.
Jones: I credit my faith for pretty much everything that's been happening in my life. I'm a Pentecostal Christian (and) my dad's a pastor, so I've been going to church every Sunday since I was a small child.

I had it rough growing up, and my life was never perfect. From where I was in (2006 and 2007), like a kid, and to be on this beautiful journey, it's just such a blessing. There's been guys who have trained in this sport for years and they've dedicated their whole lives to this, and here I am. I came out of nowhere, and on my two-year anniversary I'm fighting in the main event.

I realize all of this could be gone in a heartbeat. I try to not take any of this for granted and realize that God blessed me and he's given me these opportunities. It's just such an unlikely story. God just blessed me with a champion's mindset and confidence.

Sherdog: What kind of kid were you growing up?
Jones: As a kid I was never popular. I was always kind of just nice to everyone. I don't know. It was always about me and my brothers growing up.

I joined the wrestling team in seventh grade and I never took time off from the time it started. When kids would get one season in a year, I'd get three seasons in in a year. I would be doing freestyle and Greco.

My parents kept us pretty sheltered. We were never allowed to spend the night at our friends' house, not once. We were always taught to take care of our family and do the right things.

Sherdog: Have you ever had a near-death experience?
Jones: Actually I did. In Rochester, New York, me and my brothers and my mom, we were at a beach and they told us not to go out to a certain point. I swam out there and started realizing that I couldn't touch the ground. I remember seeing like a boat right over me, and some old Caucasian guy who was out there fishing on his boat, he made it over to me really fast and saved my life. I'll never forget it. I had to have been around 6 or 7. I remember getting a good whooping for disobeying my parents.
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