There are plenty of questions hanging in the air as Jon Jones returns to the UFC Octagon to challenge for the undisputed heavyweight title. But the former light heavyweight king said he thinks he has all his bases covered ahead of fight night at UFC 285.
Jones returns from a three-year layoff as he jumps up to heavyweight to challenge for the vacant title in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 4. And, speaking to the media ahead of his title bout with French contender Ciryl Gane, Jones was in typically relaxed mood.
When asked if the “healthy fear” and pre-fight nerves had returned to his psyche ahead of his UFC return, Jones said he wasn’t fearful, but had that familiar fight week feeling as he prepared to face Gane.
“I don’t know if it’s fear, you know? he said.
“One of my favorite quotes, ‘God hasn’t given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.’ So I can’t say that I’m afraid.
“There’s some nervousness, you know? Doing media makes you feel a little nervous. You want to put your best foot forward. Seeing the fans again, being the kind of center of attention again. Dude, I’m from Albuquerque and I live a pretty simple lifestyle. Shooting guns, hanging out with my dog, taking care of my family. I’m just a low-key guy. So this is a nice reality check being out here in front of everyone again, and just doing my best with it and trying to have fun with it, share some light and love, and just enjoy the process.”
Jones dominated the MMA world at light heavyweight, and there was immediate excitement and anticipation over his move to heavyweight from the moment he first announced it. Now, with fight night looming, the big questions are at the top of MMA fans’ minds. How will Jones cope with the move up, and all the changes in size, strength and punch power that come with it?
Jones has spent a long time conditioning himself and preparing for the move up, and said he knows how he’ll react to his new environment.
“I believe I know the answers to these questions,” he stated.
“I feel awesome. I feel like I move really well. I have great pride in my endurance. I do a lot of endurance training, whether I’m on the rowing machine or in the pool or on the bike or sparring or heavy mitts, jiu-jitsu, jogging. I worked really hard.
“I feel great. Honestly, I feel like a stronger version of myself, you know? I’m not super-lean – I don’t have a mean six-pack like I used to – that took me a while to get used to. Back in the day, I would judge my fitness level by the way I looked in the mirror. But I’m a heavyweight now. And that’s what my teammates said. ‘Jonny, you’re a heavyweight now. And it’s not about what you look like. It’s about how you perform.’ And I feel like I’m performing really well.
“I’ve had some close knockouts this camp, knocking out other people, that’s something that never happened in camp in the past. When I decided I want to get guys down to the ground, they go down, I have a pretty much 100 percent takedown rate in my training right now. And I feel really good. I like it. I get to eat what I want. I feel good, you know what I’m saying? Life is good.”
Jones has been a part of some classic Octagon battles during his career, most notably against Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier, but his bout against Gane offers a different kind of test, and Jones admits it’s hard to quantify how a matchup with the Frenchman stacks up with his past opponents in terms of difficulty, just because of the intangibles involved.
“It’s hard to say it’s hard to say whether it’d be the toughest challenge or not,” he said.
“I can’t predict the future. You know, my first Gustafsson fight, I wasn’t expecting him to put on the fight he did, and it was an absolute war.
“I am ready for whatever, I’m ready to dominate. But if I don’t dominate and the fight goes five rounds, I’m ready to press forward. And I’m ready for a dogfight. I’m ready to bleed and sweat and leave my heart out there. I’m ready for however it goes. I feel pretty prepared for victory.”