Jon Jones jokes about relationship with UFC, refrains from ugly response (Yahoo! Sports)

  • Share on Tumblr
  • submit to reddit

TORONTO – He's won world title fights in the most spectacular fashion imaginable against some of the meanest, nastiest, baddest men in the world.

Jon Jones has, at 25, and in a little more than a year as the UFC's light heavyweight champion, established himself as one of the elite fighters in mixed martial arts history.

He hasn't hit so much as a speed bump in his career in the cage.

Thursday, though, had the potential to be a career-defining day for him. This was the day when he would finally face the public and would be forced to answer the question that has been the biggest story in the sport for the last month.

On Aug. 23, Jones opted not to fight Chael Sonnen in the main event of UFC 151 when original opponent Dan Henderson injured a knee. No sort of finagling, demanding, pleading, coddling or badgering by UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta or UFC president Dana White could force him to change his mind.

"I'm a huge fan of being prepared," Jones said. "I'm a gigantic fan of being prepared. I ultimately believe being prepared leads to making the fight look easy. You do your homework, you pass tests. It's as simple as that. To go back to the Chael Sonnen situation, I wouldn't have been able to do my homework and it wouldn't have been a smart decision."

So, Jones passed on the situation. When White couldn't find a suitable main event on just eight days' notice, he was forced to cancel the card at a cost of at least $20 million to the company.

White was irate and didn't hide that he placed most of the blame on Jones for the cancelation. The public sided definitively with White and painted Jones as the UFC's biggest heel.

Jones got his first real opportunity to plead his case on Thursday at the final news conference to promote his match on Saturday against Vitor Belfort at the Air Canada Center in the main event of UFC 152.

Over the past month, Jones was vilified as a selfish, egotistical phony who was out of touch with the people who helped him become rich and famous.

That person, though, was not present at the downtown sports bar where the UFC made the final push for ticket and pay-per-view sales for Saturday's card.

[Related: Five questions that’ll be answered at UFC 152]

Jones came to the news conference needing to do something dramatic. What he did while sitting behind a microphone answering questions was every bit as dominant in its way as what he did while battering Mauricio "Shogun" Rua en route to taking the light heavyweight title at UFC 128.

Jones hit a massive grand slam at a time he needed one most.

Asked how he felt about fighting in Canada, Jones beamed that toothy grin of his and said, "Even if I get booed, I'm still happy to be here. I'm going to put on the best show I can for you guys, for sure."

He made his case logically and passionately. He was deferential when he needed to be, but he was far from a pushover.

White was missing, but his presence loomed large over the proceedings. The minute the news conference was opened for questions, Jones was put on the spot. He was asked to describe his relationship with White.

When he wants to be, Jones can be disarmingly charming. After he beat Rua at UFC 128, he delighted the crowd by animatedly describing the way he'd run down a mugger a few hours before the fight.

He used his story-telling ability Thursday to quickly cut the tension.

"I hate him," Jones said of White, feigning anger. "I hate him. Hate everything about him.”

He then folded his arms across his chest, leaned back in his seat and animatedly nodded his head.

A few seconds passed before he started to laugh and speak again.

"Nah, I'm joking, man," Jones said. "Dana White's awesome. You know, I've said before, Dana White is a passionate guy. … When he's upset with you, he's going to be passionate. I forgive Dana White for any insults he might have given me. I'm looking forward to talking to him and just moving forward.

"I've said this before, but me and Dana White are both ambassadors of this great sport. The two of us not being on the same page really makes no sense for anyone. I really want to get this sport as far as possible and get the word out, and I think working along with Dana and the UFC is a great way to do that.”

[Related: Keeping up with the Joneses will be difficult this weekend]

He related a story about how he'd struggled with everything that was thrown at him and how his girlfriend's mother told him to use adversity as an opportunity to grow.

"Right now, I'm on top of a lot of things,” Jones said. “I'm doing a great job as a parent, a great job in my business and I'm doing really well with my performances, training really smart and everything.

“I believe I've grown from all of it and I appreciate all the curveballs life has thrown me."

Jones, though, wasn't a pushover. He didn't apologize meekly, and he pushed back at White and Fertitta several times, albeit respectfully.

He apologized to those who purchased tickets to UFC 151 in Las Vegas, many of whom had non-refundable airfare and so were forced to fly to Las Vegas with no fight to see. But he never wavered from the "I did the best thing for my career," position.

"I'm hoping that at the end of the day, the fans start to open up their minds about the situation and realize that I'm not a UFC executive," Jones said. "I have absolutely zero power to cancel an event.

"At the end of the day, being a world champion, I've dedicated my whole life to this.”

He was honest and said he wasn't sure if he'd have taken the fight even if White and Fertitta had told him they'd cancel the card if he did not.

He made light of Sonnen and noted he didn't feel Sonnen has knockout power and was a less-threatening opponent than Belfort. Jones said he could defend a double-leg takedown, in a nod to Sonnen's success against middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

[Related: Vitor Belfort jumped at chance to face another phenom in Jon Jones]

But he wouldn't take the blame for the cancelation of the show or for his decision.

He said he hoped he helped make his fellow fighters aware that they have rights. While he didn't say so directly, he was intimating that he proved a fighter could stand up to White, refuse to be bullied and still have a viable career in the UFC.

"Being the champion, it means more to me than any fan," Jones said. "It means more to me than it means to Dana White. If I would have somehow lost that fight, Dana wouldn't have lost a night of sleep over it. Life would have gone on. … Ultimately, why wasn't it a good enough card? Why wasn't it a great card? Why did it have to get canceled? I watch bar fights. I love fights, no matter what level it is.

"I think it was more of an insult to the other fighters on the card that, pretty much it was like saying they weren't good enough to host the card without me and Dan Henderson. I think that was more of an offensive thing. They should be mad at the superiors, not me."

Whether Jones did enough to win back the favor of the fans is a question only time can answer.

Jones, though, did a brilliant job of advancing his cause on Thursday. He positioned himself as a charming innocent who had the wherewithal to refuse to be bullied.

Unquestionably, skeptics will remain. And should he lose on Saturday, there will be a portion of the fan base that celebrates.

But needing something dramatic to repair his image, Jones belted it out of the park.

If he beats Belfort on Saturday, he's going to leave Canada with not one, but two major wins under his belt.

Related content from the Yahoo! Sports Minute

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Five concessions owners must make to move closer to NHL labor peace
Video: Fantasy wideouts to sit, start in Week 3
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is tougher for being a mama's boy
Y! Games: Ten must-play downloadable console games for $15 or less
view original article >>

Related News

  • 5 days ago

Jon Jones may be on the cover of EA Sports UFC and the sport's pound-for-pound best fighter, but he's not even the most used fighter in the video game. It's been a little over a month since EA Sports UFC was first released to the public, and a few days ago EA Sports put out a very interesting Infographic detailing some facts and figures based on how users are playing the game. One of the standout stats is Bruce Lee, who is the game's special unlockable character, is the most popular fighter chos more

  • 27 days ago

I can think of a worse way to spend 90 minutes, and even if you aren't a professional wrestling fan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has some interesting insight into mixed martial arts (MMA) and its biggest promotion, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). That includes his comments on UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones (read 'em here), which ruffled a few feathers on Monday following the conclusion of the MMA Hour. Watch Austin dish on "Bones" and a bunch of other hot-button topics in the video more

  • 24 days ago

See you in "Sin City." Canada? Pfffft. Sweden? As if. The Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson light heavyweight championship rematch, recently booked for the upcoming UFC 178 pay-per-view (PPV) event on Sept. 27, 2014, now has a place to call home, according to promotion president Dana White. Well, sorta. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on Friday (July 4) announced the event would be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, but has yet to reveal an official venue, though both MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay ar more

  • 24 days ago

Sorry Torontonians, Las Vegas is the place to be for one of the biggest fights of the year. The first epic clash between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson took place in Toronto, Ontario, and the rematch was supposed to be in the same city. Those plans have been nixed, and on a special edition of UFC Tonight, Lorenzo Fertitta confirmed that UFC 178 will be in Las Vegas on 9/27. Believe it or not, it's the first time that Jones has fought in Vegas as a champion, although they tried to accomplish more

  • 24 days ago

The highly-anticipated light heavyweight championship rematch between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson finally has a location. more

  • 5 days ago

Surging UFC featherweight contender Conor McGregor has a chance to prove he's truly an elite talent at UFC 178 when he squares off with perennial contender Dustin Poirier. Although the event is headlined by a long-awaited light heavyweight championship rematch between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, "The Notorious" warns the 205-pound titleholder he's going to make his paycheck for the event a little lighter than usual. Tell Jon I'm taking a cut of his PPV. — Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA more

  • 5 days ago

The rematch will have to wait, but UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones still has a big fight on the horizon.Filed under: Featured, News, UFC more

  • 5 days ago

The biggest rematch of the year will have to wait, as Alexander Gustafsson has been forced out of his blockbuster rematch against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 178 after sustaining a knee injury in training, promotion officials announced Wednesday. In his stead, No. 2 ranked contender Daniel Cormier will challenge Jones for the light heavyweight title. UFC 178 is expected to take place September 27, 2014 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. more

  • 5 days ago

An injury to Alexander Gustafsson will prevent the Swede from rematching UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones this September. Taking his place is the undefeated Daniel Cormier. Having been advertised as one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history, Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 2 will not be happening on September 27th. Gustafsson tore his meniscus in training and the UFC has confirmed that Daniel Cormier will be taking his spot at UFC 178. Cormier (15-0) last fought in May agai more