With a lot of time to make up, and a UFC light heavyweight title wrapped around his waist, champion Jon Jones will look to remain as active as possible in 2019.
Jones, who returned from suspension to defeat Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 this past December and reclaim the 205-pound throne, is currently scheduled to defend his title opposite Anthony Smith at UFC 235 on Mar. 2 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will be the first fight of many for Jones this year as he tries to rebuild his brand and recapture a stranglehold on the light heavyweight division.
“I keep arguing with myself whether I’m going to go once a quarter or just three times this year,” Jones told MMAjunkie. “My goal is to be active. Usually my feet hurt after fights because I’m a heavy kicker. Hopefully I’ll be able to get right back to training and just stay active. That’s my goal.”
Jones, 31, will step inside of the Octagon at UFC 235 and put his title on the line for the first time since defeating Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision back in 2015. It will be a huge step in the right direction for “Bones” as he attempts to stay out of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) doghouse and prove he’s a clean fighter.
The all-time great will try to pull this off against a fairly unknown contender in “Lionheart.” Smith has won his first three fights at 205 pounds since moving up from middleweight last year. He’s not the most likely fighter to knock off Jones, evident by the early betting odds, but that doesn’t mean Jones is taking the 30-year-old lightly heading into UFC 235.
“When the camp started I didn’t know anything about him, really,” Jones said. “Now that I’ve been studying him I see he’s a worthy opponent. To everyone else, he’s this gigantic underdog, but I take him very seriously. He’s done some nice things in his past fights and he has my full attention. My goal is to finish the fight and dominate him, but I give him my full respect and he’s ready to be in this position. I’m excited for a good challenge.”
Despite his assessment of Smith’s recent Octagon accomplishments, Jones doesn’t believe “Lionheart” will bring anything new to the table.
“I think right now he’s just on a nice win streak,” Jones said. “That’s the improvement is he’s got a win streak. With that being said, I’m on like a 10-year win streak. I give him full credit and respect, but I don’t doubt myself.”
With the odds in his favor, Jones should be able to escape UFC 235 with his light heavyweight belt. Anything is possible inside of the cage, but it would be arguably the greatest upset of all time if Smith defeated Jones next weekend in Las Vegas.
If Jones is able to do what he is supposed to do and end Smith’s light heavyweight invasion, the reigning champion will have to turn his focus to the next contender in line. Jones, who has never shied away from a challenge, doesn’t really care who that might be.
“I try not to look at these guys. I try not to worry about these guys,” Jones said. “I’ve just got to believe in myself, my own capability, my own story line and know that at the end of the day, they’re just pieces of a big puzzle. I don’t make this stuff personal.
“I’ve fought very great people, and when you’re sitting on top of the throne you’ve just got to take the next challenger, and that’s what I’ve always been here to do. Whoever comes, I’ll be ready. My goal is to be the best ever and be the most dominant champion in UFC history. We know what my goals are.”
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