Phenom, unbeatable, the "Michael Jordan" of mixed martial arts (MMA). Those are but a few words of many that have often been used to describe Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon Jones.
Arrogant, cocky, fake -- those are also a few words that have been used to describe "Bones," by fans across Internet forums and even his colleagues, specifically, his former training partner who will also be his next opponent at UFC 145 on April 21, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia, Rashad Evans.
At the age of just 24, Jones has accomplished in the world of MMA in four years what many cannot accomplish in an entire career, and may not even come close to. In 2011, "Bones" had one of the, if not the most impressive runs in MMA history, by literally running through one of he hottest MMA prospects and three of the best to ever don UFC gloves.
The fact that he won four consecutive fights in 10 months, three of which were championship bouts, is not as near as impressive as in the manner in which he did it. He emphatically took the UFC's 205-pound title away from Mauricio Rua, one of the most respected strikers in the game, and then proceeded to defend his title against two of the most dangerous fighters in the sport today in Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida. Not only did he defeat them, he did it rather convincingly.
What's scary to think, for his opponents at least, is that Jones may not even be in his prime.
It's kind of hard not to be a little arrogant, having those accomplishments under your belt in such a short time, after dropping out of college and struggling to find work and going from borrowing his girlfriend's car just to get to practice, to driving a $170,000 Bentley.
With a background like that, who wouldn't be cocky and overly sure of themselves?
Not Jon Jones.
He is far from it, actually. In fact, as he tells Mens Journal, Jones, one of the most dangerous fighters in the world, is actually sometimes an insecure person that is only perceived to be cocky.
See for yourself:
"My road wasn't easy, by any means. That's why when people call me cocky, it's, like, the biggest blow I can get. It's like, ‘It's not me! I'm sorry I'm coming across that way.' I don't think I'm better than anyone. I want to change our sport with something positive, to brighten up people's lives and get them to look more on the positive side about every little thing."
Jones, a well spoken athlete who doesn't curse in post-fight interviews and doesn't flip off a hostile and booing crowd, is definitely the new generation of fighter that will carry this sport for years to come. He is young, has the looks and charisma that publicists can only dream of, and to top it all off, he has the skills to defeat the best fighters in the world. Yet, he is one of the most hated and booed fighters in the sport today. Jones, however, says he tries his best just to phase out the boos and hate.
"I don't hear them, to tell you the truth. I can't please everyone. Some people are going to love you, and some are going to hate you, no matter what you do."
As confident as Jones may carry himself, he lives with the fear of getting knocked out in front of such a wide audience. Something that undoubtedly would make all of his naysayers happy. Jones, however, doesn't live with hatred in his heart, nor does he have a vendetta toward the people who wish to see him fail.
"Sometimes I look back, and I want to be rude to people who didn't believe in me. But that's not what I do. I try to treat everybody with love. But when I go home now, to the people who treated me like a loser, I'm, like, the hero of our whole town."
It's funny, in a way, that a fighter can stand on top of the cage after victory, do a back flip in front of his downed opponent, and fans dare not label him cocky or arrogant, but rather, he's simply embracing his moment to shine.
Jones on the other hand, does neither of those things. But, can you imagine the backlash if he did?
When he dropped Machida's lifeless body to the mat at UFC 140 after choking him unconscious, he simply walked away, with a calm look on his face, without a care in the world. After he submitted "Rampage" at UFC 135, "Bones" sat in the center of the Octagon, embracing a moment to himself, celebrating his first successful title defense. Even when he claimed the title from "Shogun" at UFC 128, Jones didn't jump up and down in elation and do back flips off the cage, he simply sat there, quietly, reflecting on doing what he expects himself to do.
"I heard this story once of this football player who, whenever he scored, just handed the ball to the ref. And I thought that was really cool, like, ‘This is what I do. I score touchdowns.' I wasn't trying to be cocky or anything, but that's what I was thinking: ‘This is what I do. I defend my title.' "
Being the champion of such a prestigious weight class in the biggest platform of them all, Jon Jones now has a huge target on his back with the rest of the 205-pound field looking to be the one to conquer the seemingly untouchable fighter. The target is not exclusive to fighters, though, but from fans as well, who wish to see him defeated, if not for anything else than to just see him eat a slice of humble pie.
A piece of pie that Jones himself declares, he does not need.
For more on his upcoming UFC 145 main event title fight against Rashad Evans, click here.