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Jon Jones explains decision to vacate UFC title, prompting Anthony Smith to chime in

UFC 235: Ultimate Media Day Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Many people were caught off guard by Jon Jones vacating his UFC light heavyweight championship earlier this month in order to move up to heavyweight, but the decision still created some much-needed visibility within the 205-pound division.

Jones, who has dominated the light heavyweight class since his arrival all the way back in 2008, had been wrapped up in a public battle with UFC for the past couple of months. The consensus pound-for-pound best fighter in the world was at odds with UFC president Dana White over his pay structure for a potential move to heavyweight. Things got so ugly that “Bones” threatened to step away from the sport for up to three years.

Until recently, fight fans didn’t really know what would come of Jones’ relationship with UFC and his reign as light heavyweight champion. That’s when Jones relinquished is 205-pound crown and announced his official move to heavyweight.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion explained his decision to vacate his title in a recent social media post.

“I vacated the light heavyweight championship because I knew my heavyweight goals were going to take some time. I wasn’t going to play games with the contenders and make people fight interim championship belts. There’s little rest on the throne,” wrote Jones via Twitter.

Jones has always taken shots at his competition at 205 pounds — mostly because his opponents fire shots at him first — so his decision to vacate his title to help out the other fighters at light heavyweight is pretty surprising. Still, it’s a move “Bones” needed to make if he wants to dive deep into the life of a heavyweight and plot the second chapter of his legendary MMA career.

One fighter who is applauding Jones’ decision to vacate his title and create immediate opportunities for the fighters atop the 205-pound heap is none other than Anthony Smith, who takes on rising light heavyweight challenger Aleksandar Rakic tomorrow night (Sat., Aug. 29, 2020) at UFC Vegas 8 live on ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Smith, who lost to Jones via unanimous decision back at UFC 235, told MMA Fighting earlier this week that Jones’ decision to relinquish the title and not hold up the 205-pound division was a noble one.

“I’m not typically the guy that’s got a whole bunch of nice things to say about Jon Jones, but that’s a noble thing to do,” said Smith ahead of UFC Vegas 8. “He could’ve held onto that title for a long time and gone up to heavyweight, and done his thing, and talked about coming back down or not coming back down and drag everyone out for a long time.

“But he didn’t do that. It was a surprise to me and I think that says a lot of positive things about where Jon Jones is right now in his life. And it was a cool thing.”

Smith, who is coming off a TKO loss to Glover Teixeira this past May, is trying to lock down his second UFC title shot moving forward. Not having Jones in the way is only going to help “Lionheart’s” chances of earning that opportunity sometime in 2021. Of course, Smith must first get past the striking of Rakic this weekend at UFC Vegas 8.

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