Although he’s had his fair share of issues outside of the cage, Jon Jones has been nearly perfect inside of it.
The now 32-year-old became the youngest champion in UFC history when he finished the legendary Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at the ripe age of 23 in 2011. Following that victory, “Bones” went on to defend the 205-pound strap a record-setting eight consecutive times.
Overall, he possesses a 25-1-1 professional record, with his lone loss coming via disqualification in a fight he was clearly winning.
In 2015, following a decision victory over bitter rival Daniel Cormier, however, Jones’ reign briefly came to an end after he was stripped of the title due to legal issues. He then returned to win an interim title against Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197 in April 2016 but was once again stripped after it was revealed that he had tested positive for multiple banned substances just a few months later.
Jon Jones finally returned to the cage in July 2017, finishing Cormier in a rematch to reclaim the light heavyweight title. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for “Bones” though, as he yet again failed a drug test, changing the result to a no-contest and forcing the UFC to again take his title away from him.
Given the laundry list of issues Jones has had outside of the cage and the multiple drug tests he has failed, it was once quite unclear what the remainder of Jones’ career would look like. Since making his return to action at the tail end of 2018, however, things have been positive for the New Mexico native.
Taking on Alexander Gustafsson in a rematch for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 232 in his comeback fight, Jones made a statement and indicated that he was still at the top of the division’s food chain, finishing Gustafsson via TKO in the third round.
Upon reclaiming the title, “Bones” successfully defended it twice in 2019, scoring decision victories over Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. He spoke repeatedly about fighting more often and getting back to what has made him one of the most successful fighters of all-time. And although there have been a few hiccups, he’s also seemingly done a better job of keeping himself together outside of the cage, giving hope that brighter days may indeed be ahead.
At the same time, however, there have been a few criticisms aimed towards Jones, specifically regarding his performances on fight night. Given that he wasn’t able to finish Smith or Santos – some even felt as if Santos should have received the nod – fans and media members alike have begun to wonder if Jon Jones is slowing down.
Another theory, however, has been that the champion simply hasn’t been as motivated as he’s begun to take on a new wave of perhaps lesser-known challengers. Some have claimed that Jones has simply been “playing with his food”, taking his foot off of the gas and being content to coast to victory.
If true, that theory could play a factor in Jones’ next fight as well, as he’s slated to meet Dominick Reyes in the main event of tonight’s UFC 247 from Houston, Texas. While undefeated, Reyes isn’t the most well-known challenger, having just risen up the ranks in the last few years.
What’s interesting, however, is that Jones seems to be in a bit of a different mindset leading up this fight. Reyes, while not necessarily a trash talker, hasn’t been quiet. He’s taken subtle shots here and there at Jones and his confidence has been undeniable. The Californian has made it clear that he truly believes he is going to beat “Bones” when the cage door closes tonight.
Jones, meanwhile, has claimed that he hasn’t been annoyed by Reyes’ comments. At the same time, however, he’s clearly heard the talk, having been very vocal himself in interviews and on social media. He’s said that he’s “going to get” Reyes when the two meet and has repeatedly said that Reyes isn’t ready for the big stage.
In addition to Jones seemingly being far more motivated this time around, he’s also well aware of the danger that Reyes brings to the table. After all, the former collegiate football player has won seven of his 12 fights by way of T/KO and has proven to have fight-ending power in his left hand.
Should Jon Jones take Reyes lightly and come up short, it would be extremely detrimental to not only his legacy but also to his future, as many huge fights could potentially lie ahead for the champion.
When taking everything into account – the talk, Jones’ apparent motivation and hunger and the danger Reyes’ presents – it would seem like Jones will be looking to prove a point. He may not be content to coast to another victory, but rather he may be looking to close the show, a throwback to his days as a young and explosive finisher.
Ultimately, Reyes may just be the guy to bring out a vintage performance from Jones and if that proves to be true, fireworks may just very well go off in Houston.