LAS VEGAS – While he’s considered by many as the greatest mixed martial artist to ever walk the face of the earth, former UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones has never had a training regiment quite like the one he has now.
According to Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC), his preparation for his yet-to-be-set heavyweight debut marks the first time in his entire career that he’s trained consistently.
Prior to Thursday’s UFC Hall of Fame ceremony where his first bout vs. Alexander Gustafsson was inducted, Jones fielded a handful of questions from reporters – the first scrum of its kind in many months. Noticeably bigger, Jones beamed with pride when he discussed his recent changes.
“Right now I’m about 255,” Jones told MMA Junkie and other reporters on the red carpet. “I feel really great. My goal is to get up to 270 pounds. My goal is to be the most technical, the most well-conditioned, the strongest out of all the heavyweights. That’s what I want. I want to take over all across the board and that’s what I’m going to continue working for. I’m very patient and I know I have several more months of work to do. If anyone is impressed with the way I look today, I can’t wait until they see me when I get back in there. I’m planning on doing so much more.”
“… Before, I would start training about 10 weeks before a fight. I would try to get my body fat down and my cardio up and my skills together. Right now, for the first time in my whole career, I’m actually training consistently. I believe my cardio is fight-worthy right now. When I get in camp, it’s going to go to an even higher level. I feel I’m in better shape now than I ever did before. I’m sleeping better, eating better, drinking less alcohol. I feel really good.”
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Jones, 34, has not competed since February 2020 when he defeated Dominick Reyes via split decision. Since then, Jones has vacated his title and shifted his focus to competition at heavyweight – all the while in a turbulent relationship with UFC president Dana White and the promotion.
To help deal with negotiations, Jones parted ways with long-time advisors and former managers Malki and Abe Kawa. He instated longtime boxing promoter and fight game businessman Richard Schaefer as his lead advisor. The move has already paid off. Jones indicated his relationship with White has improved.
“It’s good,” Jones said. “I think me hiring Richard Schaefer was one of the best decisions I’ve made instead of me getting on Twitter and attacking Dana and pouring my emotions out. I just allow Schaefer to get down to what’s the most important in every situation and talk to the people that need to be spoken to instead of me going back-and-forth with the fans on Twitter. The relationship is good. Schaefer has really helped out a lot.”
When he returns, Jones wants the biggest fight possible – and right now, that’s UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, in his estimation. Whole Ngannou could lose his title to interim champion Ciryl Gane and change the dynamic, Jones is eager to face the former.
“Fighting for the title is what I want the most, for sure. I want the biggest fights and I think the title fights are going to be the biggest fights. If there was someone that was a bigger star than Francis at heavyweight who didn’t have the title, then I would go for that. But I think Francis is the biggest star at heavyweight. Him and I. And he has the title. That’s what I want.
“… I’m excited for either (Ngannou or Gane). I think they present two completely different puzzles but yeah, Francis is definitely a bigger star. It’d be a lot of money lost if Francis were to lose. I don’t care who wins the fight, I just want the championship.”
So when does Jones want to make his divisional debut?
“I think it will be some time in the second quarter of 2022,” Jones said.
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Once the official heavyweight pre-fight promotion begins, Jones revealed fans can expect a little more effort not only in the gym – but on the microphone, as well. One area of improvement Jones hopes to master is the marketing side of a money-driven sport.
“Dana, he guaranteed me that he would give me an increase in my next fight,” Jones said. “I’m really excited about that. I think it’s going to be pay-per-view-based, so I’m going to have to work for the money that I get. I’m going to have to sell the fight. I think that’s something I haven’t been good at in the past.
“You like at guys like (Conor) McGregor who just talk so much sh*t. He’s so good at it. He’s so good at it. He’s so good at marketing himself. I have always just focused on winning. I think when I come back as a heavyweight, I’ll try to do more legally-controversial sh*t, so that I could possibly sell some more pay-per-views. ”