Now that Jon Jones has reclaimed the UFC light heavyweight title with a TKO win over Alexander Gustafsson last month at UFC 232, the search for his next opponent is beginning to take form.
While Jones would be all game for a 205-pound trilogy bout with nemesis Daniel Cormier, that matchup is unlikely to happen within the first half of 2019. Instead, Jones will have to find another willing and able-bodied dance partner for his first official UFC title defense in over four years.
Luckily for “Bones,” surging light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith, who is coming off back-to-back main event finishes over former UFC champion Mauricio Rua and former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir, is happy to oblige.
“Lionheart” not only tried to spoil Jones’ UFC 232 post-fight interview on FOX Sports 1 by calling for the next title shot, but he recently said he’d fight the champion anytime, anywhere.
Now the potential championship fight is gaining even more steam, as Smith confirmed with TMZ Sports that his manager is currently in talks with UFC for a matchup with Jones.
“It sounds like he’s in,” Smith said. “Of course, [my manager] has already been talking to the UFC and I think that they’re working that out and seeing what that looks like as far as timelines and stuff, but I’m in.”
Smith, who is 3-0 at light heavyweight since moving up from 185 pounds this past June, doubled down on his confidence to defeat one of the best fighters of all time.
“I’m not afraid of him and I think that Jon has a lot of people beat before they even get in there,” Smith said. “I think people look at Jon like he’s an uphill battle and this unreachable task and I don’t see him like that. I’m not wowed by him. I see a man that I can beat and a person with holes, like any other human, that can be exploited.”
As for Jones, he hinted at the potential title fight with the following Instagram post earlier this week:
“So much to study, this is going to be fun,” wrote Jones.
Jones also posted the following message to Twitter to forever cement Smith’s own words on social media:
“Any time, any place, anywhere, I’m ready,” Smith said. “I’ll fight Jon this weekend if he wants to.”— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) January 4, 2019
At this rate, given the lack of readily available and deserving title contenders at 205 pounds, Jones and Smith should collide at some point in the near future. And considering Jones is looking to stay active and fight three times in 2019 in effort to give back to fight fans for sticking with him through his battles with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the potential title fight could happen within the first quarter.
At that point, we’ll find out pretty quickly if Smith is able to back up his talk, extend his current run at light heavyweight, and hand Jones is first true loss inside of the cage.
Stick with Mania for further developments on Jones vs. Smith.