When Jon ‘Bones’ Jones says he wants to fight at heavyweight, what he actually means is this: I want to make a s**tload of money against Brock Lesnar, a heavyweight. And when he says Stipe Miocic, the current UFC heavyweight champion, isn’t famous enough to play his part in a super-fight, what he actually means is this: Miocic, unlike Lesnar, is a full-time professional fighter with less of an aversion to being punched in the face.
It’s all in the detail, you see.
Similarly, before UFC 214, when Jon Jones said he was embracing his inner bad guy and took to boasting about his juvenile ways, what he actually meant was this: I got found out, my reputation is in tatters, so I may as well control the narrative and own my f**k-ups. And when he defeated Daniel Cormier inside three rounds to win back his old belt and got down on his hands and knees, in a praying position, to then apologise to Cormier, his archenemy, and console him with praise, what he actually meant was this: that’s two-nil, DC, the bragging rights are mine, and now it’s time to patronize you the way you patronized me.
As creative with the truth and his persona as he is with his strikes, there are few figures more polarizing nor as hard to read as the current UFC light-heavyweight champion. It wasn’t all that long ago he was accused of being too clean cut and a fake, someone whose public persona wildly contrasted the one he projected in private, but now, thanks to various brushes with the law and a propensity to break down in tears, the mask has slipped and Jon Jones has never been quite so exposed. He knows it. His team knows it. We know it. It’s why he’s beyond caring now. Beyond caring about his image, beyond caring about what comes out of his mouth. The one constant remains his ability to kick ass inside the Octagon, as witnessed on Saturday night in Anaheim, and that alone should ensure Jones always comes up smelling of roses in this confused morality tale called MMA that leaves good guys like Cormier – honest, humble, hard-working family men – concussed and crying on camera.
Jon Jones might not be a gentleman but he’s a phenomenal fighter, arguably the greatest of all-time, and now back on top and therefore blessed with a power to cherry-pick offered only to those of his ilk. Conor McGregor had it for a while. He used it to cross sports and pursue the ultimate payday against boxer Floyd Mayweather. Jones, meanwhile, considerably less ambitious though still seduced by the dollar sign, is choosing to stick in his lane, which is to say mixed martial arts, but instead move up – in weight, that is. His target, Brock Lesnar, is right out the Mayweather vs. McGregor playbook. It’s a freak-show of a fight, as many Lesnar fights have tended to be, and one that pits Jones, the best to ever do it, against Lesnar, a pro wrestler who used his see-it-to-believe-it frame, as well as some other stuff, to overwhelm smaller heavyweights on and off for a number of years and win the UFC heavyweight title in 2008.
Brock Lesnar is now forty years of age. His last and only MMA fight in six years took place in July 2016 against Mark Hunt, after which he tested positive for clomiphene and a win was altered to a no-contest. Before that, some six years ago, he was crushed inside a round by both Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, both of whom remain ranked UFC heavyweights.
Lesnar’s relevance, therefore, is hardly at its peak in 2017. Not that it necessarily matters. At least not in the context of a potential Jon Jones fight. For that, all he needs is his name, which remains Brock Lesnar, his reputation, built primarily in professional wrestling, and a physique that instills terror in some (those who have to fight him) and suspicion in others (those who have to test him). He has things Stipe Miocic, the real heavyweight Jones should target, lacks. Things that can make Jon Jones a very rich man.
“I feel like if I was going to take a fight at heavyweight, it would be against a person who me and my coaches feel would be a perfect matchup for me,” Jones said following his win over Cormier at UFC 214.
By “perfect matchup”, what Jon Jones actually means is this: perfect opponent with whom a ton of money can be made.
“Right now, Stipe is looking extremely impressive,” Jones continued, “and if you get an extremely talented big guy versus an extremely talented little guy, a lot of the cards are in his favour. At the same time, I fear no man.”
By “fear no man”, what Jon Jones actually means is this: I’m a tough guy, and damn good, but I’d rather not fight Stipe Miocic.
“I feel like Stipe is relatively unknown to the general public,” Jones went on. “It wouldn’t even be a real super-fight in my opinion. I think a lot of MMA fans would be super excited about it, but the general public wouldn’t care about that fight. Most people don’t really know who he is, with all due respect to him.
“So, if I’m going to sacrifice being the smaller guy, I think, stylistically, Brock would be a fight that makes way more sense, and the payday would be tremendous. What it would do for our sport would be tremendous. For many reasons a Brock Lesnar fight just makes much more sense to me.”
I don’t begrudge Jones going after Lesnar, an inactive former champion who has just served a drug ban, nor do I begrudge any prizefighter chasing their designated money fight. Let’s face it, after Mayweather vs. McGregor became an actual, official thing, the floodgates were opened and they’re all considering it. But what bothers me about a potential Jones vs. Lesnar match-up – which probably won’t happen, by the way – is that, like Mayweather vs. McGregor, it distracts and derails a great champion in his pomp and plonks him in a fight solely designed to make money. It seems, from a competition point of view, like a bit of a waste. It’s not a heavyweight title fight. It’s not even one with all that much meaning or pull in 2017.
That said, who is Jones going to fight at light-heavyweight? The Daniel Cormier rivalry is done and dusted, at least for now, while Volkan Oezdemir, having mauled Jimi Manuwa in 22 seconds at UFC 214, is still green and new on the scene, and Alexander Gustafsson, the brilliant Swede who pushed Jones like no other in 2013, would be ideal, but could end up left out in the cold by virtue of the fact he pushed Jones like no other.
Ultimately, the fate of Jon Jones will be decided by Jon Jones because it’s Jon Jones who has the power. Almost McGregor-level power, but not quite. It’s certainly a new kind of power, though, a power UFC champions of days gone by were without; a power that allows a champion to call the shots, even if these shots infuriate contenders patiently waiting their turn; a power afforded to fighters capable of hitting significant pay-per-view numbers and swelling the UFC and WME-IMG coffers; a power some have and others don’t.
Jon Jones has it. At 30, he also has the chance to do some more incredible things before he walks away from the sport, hopefully unscathed and rich beyond his wildest dreams, in the not too distant future.
When I say that, what I actually mean is this: Jon, don’t waste your time on Brock Lesnar, fight Stipe Miocic, the UFC heavyweight king, instead.