Jon “Bones” Jones will defend his 205-pound title for the eighth time on Sept. 27. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
A day after his brawl with Daniel Cormier during a press conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones spoke to Sherdog.com about the animosity that exists between the two fighters in advance of their main event clash at UFC 178 on Sept. 27.
The 6-foot-4 Jones also discussed the situation in his native New York, where MMA still is not legalized, in relation to his dream of eventually fighting at the state’s most famous venue: Madison Square Garden. Coming off a victory over Glover Teixeira in Baltimore, where he headlined a UFC 179 event that set a record with a $2.3 million gate, Jones one day envisions facing UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman in what he called “a super fight” at the Garden:
Sherdog.com: Can you discuss, generally, what happened during the brawl with Cormier leading up to and including the action that took place after he placed his hands on you?
Jones: You saw what happened. Basically, we came out, face-to-face, and he put his hand around my neck, and, you know, I kind of kicked into a self-defense type of mode, and we went at it. Fortunately, nobody got hurt. It’s not something that I’m proud of and I’ve apologized several times to the Fertitta family and to [UFC President] Dana White and the MGM Grand, as well as all of the fans who saw that. It’s definitely not what I’m about or what I stand for, but I also respect myself and I won’t be assaulted like that, especially in public. But that’s something that I’m looking to get beyond, and hopefully that situation doesn’t stick to me and Daniel too long. I want people to focus on the actual competition; but yeah, that’s not my proudest moment.
Sherdog.com: Was that a preview in any way of the intensity that fans can expect for you and Cormier to bring to the fight in September?
Jones: Well, you can’t really judge a fight like that and say that’s what’s really going to happen in our actual fight. There were a lot of people holding him down, and there were a lot of people holding me down. I couldn’t really throw a solid punch because there were a lot of people grabbing onto my arms, so it’s hard to gauge what that meant.
Sherdog.com: Why did you feel it was necessary to be apologetic and to exhibit a calm demeanor during your interview on ESPN later that day, particularly given Cormier’s name calling throughout the segment, and did you come off as the bigger guy?
Jones: I just tried to be calm, cool and collected during that interview, you know? It’s bad enough that people look at our sport as being barbaric and uncivilized. I was actually still heated and still ramped up, but I was able to control my emotions and not to come off as a fool to the general public. I was already remorseful and regretful about the situation, so I figured that being on national television that yelling and screaming and being immature wasn’t going to help anything at all, so I tried not necessarily to be the bigger guy but to try not to sabotage the reputation the UFC and what we actually stand for. At the end of the day, we’re mixed martial artists and we’re not barbaric cage fighters.
Sherdog.com: Can you address the different challenge offered by the substitution of the shorter, 5-foot-11, more compact Cormier as opposed to 6-foot-4 Alexander Gustafsson?
Jones: Yeah, they have completely different styles. Gustafsson’s a kickboxer with good footwork and pretty fair standup game, where Cormier is primarily a wrestler and a brawler; so we’re working against a different style and will have to use a different strategy and use a different training camp and different partners. But we’re prepared for this challenge.
Sherdog.com: Do you expect him to try to make it an ugly fight to counter your range and game planning with a ground-and-pound strategy?
Jones: I’m totally aware of what he needs to do to try to be successful, and I know what I need to do to be successful. I have a very honest assessment of both of our games, and I’m sure that we’ll come up with a pretty good plan for him.
Sherdog.com: Do you have a prediction?
Jones: My prediction is that I’m going to win this fight and that I’m going to win it in devastating fashion. That’s the name of the game. Not only do I want to dominate the fight, but I really want to make a statement in this fight and really perform at a high level and do what is necessary to win.
Sherdog.com: Would you characterize the feelings of bad blood between you and Cormier as those between two guys who genuinely do not like each other?
Jones: Yeah, they’re genuine. I’m not going to say that I hate him. I don’t hate him. It’s not even that I don’t like him. It’s just that I’m a fierce competitor. I’m a fierce competitor and he’s a fierce competitor, and we both know what’s ahead of us and that’s real competition, good competition. You need to take on a certain attitude to be able to meet that challenge and to do your best, so we’ve both got our game faces on, and, unfortunately, those game faces are ugly.
Sherdog.com: What are your thoughts on your experience in Baltimore with the Teixeira at UFC 172? It was both the highest gate for a sporting event all-time at the Baltimore Arena and the second-highest gate for any event there behind The Rolling Stones at a venue that has featured Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen, among others?
Jones: Wow, I didn’t know that. Honestly, it’s just a testament to the UFC and the promotion and the advertising that was put behind such a great fight. Me and Glover Teixeira, we both had long winning streaks and we’re both winners, and I just think that the people wanted to see a great competition and a great match, which it was. We both came and we fought our hearts out and there was lots of blood left in that octagon. We put our hearts on the line and we left it all out there, and the people were really satisfied when they left; but to answer your question, it’s really just where the UFC is at and how fast we’re growing and what a great promotion that is.
Sherdog.com: What would it mean for you to have a similar opportunity to participate in a fight like that in New York, a state in which you were born and raised and one in which MMA is currently still illegal?
Jones: I think mixed martial arts being legalized in New York State is just a matter of time. We have a lot of intelligent people working on this situation, and I think that every time that you lobby in your state that you’re getting closer and closer. My dream is to fight at Madison Square Garden, and I think that, as a fighter, fighting at the Garden is [the] pinnacle. Muhammad Ali fought there, and Mike Tyson fought there. The greatest fighters of all-time have all gotten to compete at the Garden, so I think that our time will come. I think that our proponents and our people will continue to push for it, and I think that eventually, we won’t be ignored. They just can’t ignore us forever.
Sherdog.com: Have you ever considered what it would be like to face Weidman in an all-New York fight at MSG?
Jones: Oh, man, I think that would be awesome. I would absolutely jump at the opportunity to have a super fight with Chris Weidman. I respect him a lot as a person and as a champion, and I think that that fight would make great sales -- absolutely.