In the second part of his exclusive interviews with UFC 165 headliners Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, Fighters Only magazine editor Nick Peet talks New York, Anderson Silva and breaking records for the current UFC light heavyweight champion.
There has been a lot of talk about Chris Weidman’s shock KO of Anderson Silva, when the middleweight title changed has for the first time in seven years in July, in the run up to next weekend’s UFC light heavyweight clash between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.
Fans and fighters have been talking about the possibility of ‘a year of upsets’ inside the Octagon, while Gustafsson admitted to FO too that he’s taken inspiration from the performance and is planning a little upset of his own in Toronto next Saturday night.
However, Jones certainly doesn’t believe lightening is going to strike twice and, just like his latest challenger, he too is using the Silva-Weidman outcome as a motivational tool as he looks to make history and become the most successful light heavyweight champion in UFC history with a sixth defence.
“Watching UFC 162 (when Anderson was KO’d inside five minutes) was crazy,” he recalls to FO. “Just sitting there and registering something like that is mind blowing. To see a great champion and an entire legacy just end like that, it was humbling. It lets you know that it can happen to anyone. You’ve got to take everything and everyone seriously and you’ve got to respect the sport.
“But at the same time I still believe Anderson can come back. He’s still has it and he just got caught basically.”
Prior to being knocked out, Anderson was being mooted as a future opponent for Jones, in a superfight likely to draw in big crowds and even bigger PPV numbers across the Atlantic. And, whilst not overly keen to fight the middleweight great, Jones admits that it could still happen in 2014.
“All Anderson has to do is win his next fight (Weidman rematch, UFC 168) decisively and there’s the interest right there. It’s still on, the superfight,” he says. “I’ve never really been overly anxious to face Anderson Silva though to be honest. I knew the fight could happen but I never had any desire to be the one to beat him or anything like that.
“After he lost I Tweeted about my disappointment and that him losing sucked, but it was just because watching a champion lose always sucks. It’s like he’s also a member of this special league of gentlemen and when you see one of the guys get taken down it sucks. But Anderson, and any thought of a superfight, well, it’s still there.”
Yet regardless of what happens in the division below in December, first Jones must overcome his latest obstacle and Gustafsson, the legit number one contender at 205lb, is brimming with confidence. And Jones admits, he’s excited by the challenge ahead – and that opportunity to break Tito Ortiz’s long-standing five-defence light heavyweight title reign.
He says: “This fight really excites me. It’s for the record. It’s very rare to have the opportunity to be the number one at something. I’m already the champion, but to be the greatest light heavyweight statistically doesn’t come around too often. So this fight is very important for me.”
He adds: “I believe every champion should push themselves, and put a lot of pressure on themselves. You should be out there striving for greatness. I’m the CEO of Team Bones Jones. In fact, I’m the CEO, the president and the spokesperson for Team Bones Jones and I know I have to be at the top of my game to do something really special so, yeah… that’s how my mind works.”
As for his preparation, well, the world press tour certainly didn’t help, as both fighters only went into full camp with seven weeks to go, but Jones is happy he’ll be firing on all cylinders come show time and insists he never made too many changes to his usual preparation.
“The press tour, of course, made an impact on my preparations but I’m where I need to be now. I’m ready for this fight,” he stats. “We made plenty of small changes to cater for what he brings to the fight, but nothing substantial. No camps are ever the same, but there wasn’t an overhaul of my training simply because he’s tall. The distancing and timing will come as the fight nears, but I try not to overthink any fight or any opponent.
“The press tour was arduous but different, and I mean that in a good way. I got to know him, got to see how he acts, got to see little things like when he’s comfortable and stuff. When you see someone a lot it’s easier to visualize yourself being in front of him.
“I’ve faced off with him like 12 times already, so I know where my nose lines up with his nose. Alexander is tall, he has a presence. So I choose to look him in the eyes to let him know that I’m here, I’m the same height, I embrace us being the same height, and I want to let him know there’s only room for one tall guy in there.”
“I actually like the guy; he’s cool. I think we’d actually be friends if we weren’t fighting one another.”
UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson takes place at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday 21st September. For TV coverage in your area check local listings.