UFC champ Jon Jones not superstitious about video game cover


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(This story appears in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, a USA TODAY sister property.)

After modeling down vests that “fight the chill” of fall for GQ magazine, Jon Jones took part in a photo shoot more suited to his tastes last week.

The Union-Endicott High School graduate and UFC light-heavyweight champion traded vests for his ring gear on Friday to shoot the cover of EA Sports UFC, a new video game that will be available next spring for Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

“I would say this (the EA) shoot was a lot more fun, a little more down my alley,” Jones said during a phone interview Friday while on a break from the shoot in New York City. “GQ had me in all types of clothes I would never wear and had me doing all types of goofy things.

“(Here) I had to do 1,000 flying knees, a 1,000 elbows and 1,000 punches — but I needed the workout and it was fun.”

Electronic Arts announced Monday that Jones would be one of two fighters to grace the cover of its inaugural UFC game. Fans will vote among 16 fighters to decide the other cover spot. The honor is special for Jones, who is an avid video gamer.

“It’s been surreal; sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure everything’s real,” Jones said. “Being a 26-year-old video game player, to have the opportunity to be on the cover of this game and to know millions of young guys around the world will be playing this game and having me on the cover of their game, it’s a huge honor.”

EA Sports is the leader when it comes to sports video games with top-selling franchises such as the Madden NFL football series. It released EA Sports MMA in 2010 to favorable reviews, but this is the first MMA game under the UFC banner.

Jones, who said he enjoys Madden and the Fight Night boxing games, said he has not had a chance to play an early version of the game but was impressed by recent footage. An exact release date has not yet been announced.

“This game is the closest thing you can get; (‘It’s in the game’) is the perfect slogan because you really feel like you’re in the fight,” said Jones, referring to EA Sports’ catchphrase. “You see muscles restricting, you see bruises occurring, hair moving and flowing through the wind, the facial expressions … I can say this game is the most realistic game in all of gaming.”

While being selected to be on the cover of a video game is akin to making the cover of a Wheaties box, it has also brought a decline in production to many cover athletes — most famously with the so-called “Madden Curse” in the NFL series.

But Jones does not give too much thought to that.

“Before I won the (light-heavyweight) belt, it had been passed around,” Jones said. “All the champions would lose the belt in their first title defense, and I was the first one to keep the belt in a long time. Before my last fight, Anderson Silva had lost and other champions had gone down, everyone said ‘Oh Jon, what if you’re next?’ I refuse to give in to those superstitions.”

Jones, who will defend his title against Glover Teixeira sometime next year, said he is fully healed from a brutal five-round clash with Alexander Gustafsson in September. The Swedish challenger pushed Jones more than any other fighter in the UFC before Jones won via unanimous decision.

“I feel great and I’m so glad to be past that fight,” said Jones, who will begin training next week for his fight with Teixeira. “A huge mark in my career to break the (most UFC title defenses) record; such a war, and I’m grateful for the experience.”

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