Jon “Bones” Jones is the most exciting young fighter to explode on the MMA scene in years. He’s a tough young wrestler who compliments his grappling game with innovative striking moves right out of the comic books. Heavy.com’s E. Spencer Kyte caught up with Jones while he was training for his December 5th main event with Matt Hammill.
Heavy.com: We’re ten days away from your headlining fight at The Ultimate Finale against Matt Hamill. How has training camp been going and how are you feeling heading into the fight?
Jon Jones: Man, the training camp has been going great. I feel really good. I feel faster than ever. I’ve been really working on my wrestling; as my wrestling strengthens, my ability to chain wrestle has come back a lot. I just feel great, man.
I’ve been doing way more jiu jitsu than I’ve ever done, way more sparring than I’ve ever done, working out with guys who kick my butt for the very first time in my career and I just feel great, man. It’s the best training camp ever.
Heavy.com: We’ve seen and heard of the troubles Anthony Johnson has had making weight lately, missing by six pounds two fights back and fainting before the weigh-ins last weekend. Do you cut much weight heading into a fight and do you ever think about moving up somewhere down the line seeing as you’re only 22-years-old and still filling out?
Jon Jones: There is definitely still some growing going on, but I don’t cut much weight. I’ve decided to embrace my frame and that’s why I went with the nickname “Jonny Bones” because if you get the chance to meet me, I’m not that big.
I get that all the time – “Man, you skinny! You’re not that big in person” and I’m totally fine with that. I’m comfortable with that.
You know, guys like Bruce Lee, he never bulked up. Guys like (Anderson) Silva, these are guys that can move and really control their body. I so comfortable with my level of strength and my agility, and a lot of that comes from me not cutting weight.
I walk around at a healthy 217 and that’s not a big cut for me at all.
Heavy.com: How did the transition to working with Greg Jackson and the team in Albuquerque come about?
Jon Jones: I guess it came about because destiny allowed me to fight the same night as Georges St-Pierre three fights in a row, starting off with UFC 87, St-Pierre versus Fitch. Then I got to fight on St-Pierre versus Penn II and at UFC 100 when he fought Thiago Alves.
I started warming up with Georges, talking a lot. Me and Georges had pre-fight practice and spent hours, and that’s when Greg Jackson, Firas (Zahabi), those guys saw my potential and they kind of pulled me to the side a little bit, had a chat with me and next thing you know, I’m travelling up to Canada and down to New Mexico.
Heavy.com: What element of your game has improved the most since moving to Jackson’s?
Jon Jones: The biggest thing I guess is just my overall game. Greg Jackson’s school is a submission school, so especially knowing that Hamill is going to try and take me down, I’ve just been working on so many submissions from the front headlock position, so different submissions from my back, escapes from my back.
You know, me tapping out Jake O’Brien really turned me on. It let me know that I can submit people. Jiu jitsu is nothing but a different type of wrestling, so I’ve just been strengthening my jiu jistu way more than I ever have in my career and hopefully we can take choke him (Hamill) out as well.
Heavy.com: Next weekend, you’re in the main event of the TUF 10 Finale against Matt Hamill, a guy who has a pretty solid wrestling pedigree of his own. I’m guessing the gameplan is to stuff the takedown and work from there?
Jon Jones: (Laughs) Um, yeah. Whatever he does and gives me, I’ll take. The biggest advantage is that I’m sparring more, doing more jiu jitsu, wrestling with guys like Rashad Evans who has great boxing and is three times faster than Matt Hamill, and if I can stop Rashad’s shot, that gives me ultra-confidence against a guy like Matt Hamill who is a totally different level of speed.
Yeah man, my jiu jitsu is so much better than it used to be. I’ve been working so much on my hands. My overall MMA game is just way better from being around guys who are just better than me all the time, you know? I went from being a big fish at Bomb Squad to now I’m just another guy and I get banged out every day. It feels good.
Heavy.com: Your teammates, Rashad Evans and Keith Jardine, have fought and beaten some of the best in the business. What have you learned training with guys on their level?
Jon Jones: Yeah, absolutely. I guess one of the biggest things is that we do this thing where I do circles, and what they do is each round I spar against someone different. There’s no one at the gym where I’m really starting to figure out their timing.
I can go from a fight with Georges one round to a guy like Rashad the next round and they’re completely different athletes doing completely different things.
I’m just smarter than I used to be when it comes to fighting. No disrespect to Hamill, but there is nothing I can see him doing to me that Rashad hasn’t tried or Keith wouldn’t do.
My confidence is way better; I considered myself a confident person before, but now it’s just like, “Man, my brothers are the best in the world and I wanna act like them” and winning this fight is going to help me out with that.
Heavy.com: After fighting Andre Gusmao on short notice and earning the win, you fought Stephen Bonnar at UFC 94. That’s a pretty tough test for your second UFC bout and only the eighth fight of your career. Was there something about the Bonnar fight that made you think you matched up well or was it simply a matter of taking the biggest and best fight available to you?
Jon Jones: Yeah – they offered that fight; so far, I haven’t turned down any fight that they’ve offered me and like I said, I figure that God blesses me with a lot of athleticism and I train really hard, so I have no reason to doubt myself against any fighter in the world and whatever they offer me, whoever they ask me to fight, I’ll do my job the very best I can.
Heavy.com: Where do you see yourself within the division or do you simply take it one fight at a time and let the chips fall where they may?
Jon Jones: I don’t call out people. I believe about destiny; whoever they put in front of me next is who they put in front of me next, but that’s not even in my life.
It’s just Matt Hamill and my family and Christ and that’s about it.
Heavy.com: What was the decision to leave school and pursue fighting full-time like? What did your family and friends say? Did you have to make any promises to go back and get your degree?
Jon Jones: I was at a two-year school and I had plans to go to Iowa State University and wrestle with those guys. Me and my fiancée, we were expecting a child and I thought that I would be responsible and put my personal goals on hold and start coming up with ways to provide for these girls.
It panned out. It was a leap of faith, turning down a full scholarship to Iowa State University.
Even my manager was like, “I understand why you’re doing this, but to be honest, your first year fighting, it’s a gamble. You’re not going to make money, you gotta get exposure first. You’re gonna be making 300 bucks a night.”
You know, I found myself in the UFC after four months. It was a blessing and a testament to truly believing in yourself and the power of your beliefs, and if you work towards your beliefs, the sky’s the limit and it’s all panning out.
I think that’s a big reason why I feel so confident getting ready to fight Mr. Hamill here; I’m doing the right things, training my butt off and have no reason to doubt myself.
Heavy.com: You train with several TUF alums, and you’ll be fighting your second TUF alumnus in Matt Hamill. What does it mean to you that you were able to bypass the TUF house and go straight into the UFC?
Jon Jones: It feels great, man. I tried out for the show when I was 20 and I didn`t make the show, so I just kept a really positive attitude.
I talked about being in the UFC all the time with my girl at home. I wrote down UFC. I drew UFC. I had pictures with a UFC hat on. I just kept that goal right in front of my face and kept working hard and kept having faith.
Now the goal is that belt and I`m just going to keep working hard, keep believing in myself. But it feels great. It`s just a testament to how everything happens for a reason and to never give up the faith. I got to skip the house and who knows? Maybe I wouldn’t have won the show and made it to the UFC if I had gotten on the show, so no matter how much adversity happens in life, you gotta keep a positive outlook and keep working towards what you’re trying to do.
Heavy.com: Your teammates are well known for not wanting to fight each other, no matter the gain. Would you be willing to fight a teammate if it came down to that in order to win the Light Heavyweight title?
Jon Jones: Before me and Greg even talked about me being a part of the team, he said, “Lemme just talk about this with Rashad and Keith, and get back to you.” He got back to me like two or three days later and said that they wanted to accept me as part of the team.
I would feel so uncomfortable fighting those guys. They’re not even teammates; they’re my older brothers and I’m their little brother and I just wouldn’t fight them. I couldn’t. It’s not possible.
I realize that I don’t have the leeway to say who I’m going to fight and who I’m not going to fight, but the plan, the program that we’ve come up with is not to fight each other.
There are too many good guys (to have to fight each other). We just got Little Nog, there’s… there’s so many tough dudes. Why fight each other?
Heavy.com:You are known for your innovative moves. Have you shared any of those spinning elbows and suplexes with the team? Can we expect to see Keith Jardine pulling out some of your moves next time around?
Jon Jones: (Laughs) I have, I have. Actually, one of the really cool things about training at Jackson’s is that you’ve got so many tough dudes: Cub Swanson, Leonard Garcia, “Cowboy” (Donald Cerrone), the list goes on, Carlos Condit, Keith Jardine, so we’re all sharing stuff.
We’re not teammates, we’re brothers. We all believe that and we all treat each other like brothers, and we all teach each other stuff, so don’t be surprised if you see one of those guys pulling off a spinning back elbow or me doing a Keith Jardine technique.
Heavy.com: You`re not going to come in all hunched over throwing out of that stance of Jardine’s next week are you?
Jon Jones: (Laughs) I just might do the Monkey Man.
Heavy.com:Are those combinations and strings something you specifically work on in camp or is it a heat of the battle type creation?
Jon Jones: Greg Jackson has a really great strategy for me this fight – a really, really great strategy for this fight – and one thing with Greg is that while he’s teaching me technique and ways of thinking, he still allows me to be myself and he loves my creativity and loves my flow.
Bruce Lee says, “Don’t think – feel,” so if I feel it, it’s going to come. I’m not going to hesitate to pull the trigger, so literally watch out for everything; takedowns, submissions, knockout blows – anything can happen out there.
Heavy.com: Quick hitters to end things off… Favorite fighter?
Jon Jones: Anderson Silva
Heavy.com: Best fight you’ve ever seen – live or otherwise?
Jon Jones: Probably one of the Chuck Liddell – Randy Couture fights.
Heavy.com: Best Prospect?
Jon Jones: I don’t know if I can say prospect, but Jose Aldo is the man!
Heavy.com: Favorite Movie?
Jon Jones: Twilight (laughs).
Heavy.com:I’m printing that. I’m making sure that gets in print. That might have to be the title of this interview, “Jon Jones Hearts Twilight!”
Jon Jones: Go ahead. I represent for Twilight. I’m not scared. New Moon actually.
Heavy.com: Fine – Jon Jones Hearts New Moon! Favorite Food?
Jon Jones: Probably a chicken Caesar salad.
Heavy.com:If you could fight anyone – past or present – who would it be and why?
Jon Jones: Matt Hamill because that’s all that matters.
Heavy.com: If you could play matchmaker for one day, regardless of organizational ties or anything like that, what three fights would you make and why?
Jon Jones: Oooh, matchmaker? St-Pierre versus Anderson Silva, I’d like to see that. I don’t know though man… I would say, Cain Velasquez versus Brock maybe, and the General Manager at Greg Jackson’s, Ricky, versus Coach Greg Jackson.
Heavy.com: Any shoutouts you need to give?
Jon Jones: Jesus Christ for putting me in this position; you know, I don’t take anything for granted and without him, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now.
Also the Silver Star Company and Team Conviction. I have a really great personal trainer this time around. Not only is it the high altitude, but this woman is pushing me and I definitely want to give a shout out to her, Kelly Tekin.
Heavy.com: That’s all I got. I appreciate you doing this.
Jon Jones: Okally-dokally brother.
Heavy.com: All the best next weekend.
Jon Jones: Thank you, it means a lot.
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