TORONTO – UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is all about breaking down barriers for the sport of mixed martial arts.
Since joining the UFC roster in 2008, Jones (18-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) has been focused on attracting the attention of mainstream sponsors. Five years later, he’ll be the first fighter in UFC history to enter the cage with two blue-chip sponsors on his fight shorts when he meets Alexander Gustafsson (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) in the main event of UFC 165 on Saturday night.
It hasn’t been easy, but in the last year the 26-year-old has turned his dreams into reality with blue-chip companies Nike and Gatorade opting to represent his personal brand.
The freshly announced deal with Gatorade is particularly near and dear to Jones’ heart because it epitomizes how far he’s come in such a short time and proves no goal is out of reach.
“It’s such a great pleasure to be sponsored by Gatorade,” Jones told MMAjunkie.com. “I don’t know if you guys realize it or not but I’ve set my goals to a lot of things, and I’ve made them public. If you go back and you look it up, you’ll see that I mentioned Gatorade years ago.
“A thing that a lot of people have never realized as well is that at every post-fight conference of the last four years, I’ve always made sure I had a Gatorade next to whatever drink they had up there on the podium and it was for a reason. I always had a dream to be sponsored by Gatorade, I always had the dream to be sponsored by Nike, and it finally came true.”
While Jones has done everything in his power inside the cage to make his personal brand as big as possibly, there are people outside of competition who help “Bones” achieve his goals unrelated to actual fighting.
One of those people is manager Malki Kawa, who has helped Jones connect the dots when it comes to hooking up with such lucrative sponsors, but refuses to accept credit for where the reigning champion is today.
“The props go out to Jon; he did everything he needed to do to get this deal and he’s sponsored by Gatorade for this fight,” Kawa said. “He worked hard, he went out there, and I’m just grateful that I was a part of it and was able to help facilitate it happening,
“You’re going to see Jon Jones become the first guy to walk into the octagon with Gatorade and Nike on his shorts.”
Not only is Jones’ Gatorade sponsorship a major personal accomplishment, but it’s also a big deal for the UFC as a whole.
Never before has a UFC fighter signed a global deal with Gatorade, and the fact the sponsorship aspect of the sport is moving in a positive direction is a pleasure to the ears of the man who runs the organization.
“It’s awesome,” UFC President Dana White said of Jones’ Gatorade deal. “Him and Georges St-Pierre have some serious sponsors – I like it.”
With each passing victory, Jones is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity to companies such as Nike or Gatorade. The New York native is well on his way to becoming one of the most successful fighters in the history of the sport, which means this likely isn’t the end of worldwide brands backing the youngest fighter to ever win a UFC championship.
When all is said and done and Jones’ career comes to a conclusion, he wants to be considered one of the trailblazers for the sport and be remembered as someone who paved the way for the next generation to receive bigger and better sponsorships.
Several years ago the idea of an MMA fighter holding duel Nike and Gatorade sponsorships would seem preposterous, but Jones has made it happen and he hopes one days others will reap the benefits of his hard work.
“To be in line with Nike and Gatorade – they’re two of the elite companies for an athlete to be sponsored by and that’s what I want for my brand, that’s what I want for MMA as a whole to be big sponsors, fortune 500 companies,” Jones said. “The companies that endorse the NFL, the NBA – I want them to be in MMA and I want to be the guy to bring them all the table so dues get bigger and brighter for all of us and to break down another wall.”
“I feel like I’m a walking testament of how belief and goal setting and just striving to do everything in your power to make it happen.”
For more on UFC 165, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Jon Jones)