Jon Jones faced one of the most difficult tests of his career in the UFC 247 headliner on Saturday night.
Nonetheless, the reigning light heavyweight champion still found a way to defeat Dominick Reyes thanks in large part to a strong push in the fourth and fifth rounds. While the scoring was controversial, UFC president Dana White believes Jones’ championship instincts are his greatest attribute.
“Say what you want about Jon Jones. Jon Jones wins fights,” White said at the UFC 247 post-fight press conference. “It’s [scoring] all over the map. It all depends on the way you judge a fight…It was a badass fight. One thing I do know, both of these guys are tough as nails. The shots these guys took to the body, legs, head…it was a phenomenal fight between two phenomenal athletes.”
If anything, White says Jones has set the bar so high with past performances that anything other than a dominant victory tends to be viewed as a disappointment.
“When you take a guy like Jon Jones, all the things he’s accomplished, all the killers that he’s beat — you set this expectation for Jon Jones that he should come out and destroy him,” White said. “Jon Jones isn’t 25 anymore and he’s taking on these young killers. He finds a way to win these fights. I think the bar is set so high…coming into this fight in no way shape or form did I think Jon Jones was going to walk through Dominick Reyes. Dominick Reyes is the real deal. I knew it before and I know it even more now.”
UFC 247 marked the third consecutive bout in which Jones needed to go the distance to achieve victory. He garnered a split verdict over Thiago Santos at UFC 239 in July and a unanimous decision win against Anthony Smith last March. While he didn’t get a scorecard in his favor like Santos, Reyes appeared to be a far more dangerous foe for “Bones.” Jones is now 32 years old, and White took a moment to marvel at the champ’s ability to absorb punishment and keep moving forward against such a talented opponent.
“Let’s be honest. Jon Jones has not been good to himself outside the Octagon,” White said. “When you see a guy that’s lived the life he has, they don’t come back and do what Jon Jones is doing. This guy is a freak of nature in every way that you can be a freak of nature.
“Dominick Reyes would’ve knocked out 100 percent of the people he fought out with some of the stuff he hit Jones with tonight. Not only did he walk through it, but the one time he got knocked down I thought it was a slip. Reyes was hitting him with shots and Jones was not walking backward, he was walking forward walking Reyes down. He’s a bad boy.”
Considering the close nature of the bout, a rematch seems all but inevitable.
“If and when these two fight again, it’ll be even better than [Saturday],” White said. “That’s the positive of tonight no matter what side of the fence you’re on.”