Jon ‘Bones’ Jones certainly does not lack for confidence.
Having soared through the light-heavyweight division on his way to capturing the title and becoming the youngest UFC champion ever, Jones has reason to be buoyant ahead of his third title defence on April 21.
The defence will have added significance because the opponent is Rashad Evans, who used to be a training partner of Jones’. The two have seen their former friendship devolve into a bitter rivalry, which led to Evans walking out the Greg Jackson camp last year.
While Evans professes a high level of confidence in beating the inordinately dominant Jones, the champion - who says their upcoming clash will be “the biggest fight the UFC has seen in years” - has urged him not to put too much store into those memories.
“My opponent and I have a storied history that has been well-documented. He thinks he knows everything I bring to the table, but a lot has changed since he left the gym a year ago. I'm a much different fighter than the one he trained with. I hope he is ready to see and feel that difference,” he says.
“I have been able to prove many of my doubters wrong over the course of the last 12 months. Some said I couldn't submit a legend, and I did that. Some said I couldn't take a punch, and I did that. Now some are saying that I will have trouble against someone who knows me so well… They are wrong. Wait until they see what I do on April 21.”
Jones has also voiced his desire “to be considered among the greats in UFC history.”
“I feel it is my time and my destiny to be the light heavyweight champion in the UFC. Winning this fight, and defeating a fourth former champion in a row would keep me on pace to achieving that goal,” he says with typical modesty.
Despite the way such statements grate with some fans, if he does beat Evans - and the bookmakers certainly think he will - then Jones will have gone a long way towards cleaning out the light-heavy division. There are a few fights left at 205lbs for him - Evans and Dan Henderson being two of them - but after that, he may have to start looking at heavyweight for new challenges.