Jon Jones made a triumphant return to the Octagon at UFC 232 last month with a dominant TKO victory in his rematch against Alexander Gustafsson.
Going into the fight against Gustafsson, there was a lot of pressure on “Bones” to perform considering the promotion decided to move the entire card to another state less than a week out from the event. This was due to the Nevada Athletic Commission not granting Jones a license to compete due to a prior drug test that showed a residual amount of the metabolite that had earned Jones his previous 15-month suspension from USADA.
Once the cage door closed, however, Jones showed no indications of ring rust or of feeling any pressure, as he dominated Gustafsson for the entire fight. Mike Winkeljohn, one of Jones’ main coaches at Jackson-Wink MMA, claims that is exactly what he and the team expected after Jones’ training camp. (courtesy of BJPenn.com)
“I wasn’t [worried],” Winkeljohn said. “In Jon’s case, it was a good thing. No injuries, getting focused, just getting that passion back a little bit. Behind the scenes he was very fearful, everyone is kind of second-guessing it, but at the same time he had this passion we hadn’t seen before. Everyone is going to see a new Jon Jones and he is going to be even better for his next fight.”
Jones’ performance against Gustafsson showed just how much work he had put in for the camp even before the fight was announced.
In their previous encounter, Jones had admitted he was at the height of his party days but the champ approached this fight with a different mindset. The first fight back in 2013 was awarded to Jones although many fans believed the Swede should have had his hand raised on the night. It was that doubt from the fans which drove Jones to train even harder to get the finish to erase any doubts this time.
Winkeljohn believes that his star pupil will be looking for more finishes now and sent a warning to the rest of the division of what his star pupil will do to his opponents if he gets them to the ground.
“Oh yeah, there is no doubt and Jon is all about getting a finish. He wants to finish his fights from now on,” Winkeljohn explained. “Here is the deal, when Jon is on top and starts dropping elbows, nobody wants to be there. It is a bloody mess, everybody will turn and he will tap him out. That is how I see fights going in the future. They are going to be so fearful of getting taken down that striking will be even easier than it has been and Jon will finish everybody from now on.”
Winkeljohn said the team studied Gustafsson extensively before the rematch and implemented a different game plan than in their first fight.
“We knew a lot of things. I’m not going to lie, the first fight, we were caught off guard with Gustafsson shooting on Jon. That got Jon’s ego involved,” Winkeljohn said. “That changed things a little in Jon’s mind, we got gassed for a little bit. This time we were ready for anything Gustafsson came up with. Our goal was to keep him so mesmerized with chaos, with Jon’s ability to strike from anywhere that Gustafsson wouldn’t know how to shoot, when to shoot or how to box. Jon did exactly that, he is a master at that.”
Winkeljohn says Jones is driven by the desire to be considered the greatest MMA fighter of all-time and drew inspiration from the great Muhammad Ali as he prepared for his long awaited return.
“Very important, it is a big part of his identity, not only the belt but being considered the best pound-for-pound fighter of all-time,” Winkeljohn explained. “That is something Jon and I have always talked about, I want it for Jon and he wants it for himself, is the legendary status. He thinks highly of Muhammad Ali of everything he did. Ali was off for a long time and came back. There are a lot of similarities there between Jon and Ali, and we all appreciate his ability to persevere.”
Jones continues to cause divide when it comes to MMA’s greatest fighter of all-time debate due to his positive drug tests but Winkeljohn says he’s already there and said he’s continually improving.
“If you look at who he has taken out, and he has never lost except for the disqualification, so yeah Jon is by far the best of all-time,” he said. “He is just getting better and that is a scary thing for the rest of the division.”