The Future Is Now, And It Is Jon Jones

The future of mixed martial arts began on Saturday night in Newark, New Jersey, as Jon Jones outclassed one of the best fighters in the sport, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, dominating him from the word “go” and claiming the UFC light heavyweight championship.

Winning the belt alone is a major accomplishment, but it’s the way that Jones made Rua look like he had no business being in the cage with him that truly signals the dawning of a new era. I know that has been said many times before, and very famously in this division just two years ago, but this is different and very real.

Three years ago, Jones was a 23-year-old kid who turned to fighting professionally as a way to support his impending family. Three years later, he’s a world champion, in addition to being a proud and dedicated family man.

His rise to the top of the sport is unparalleled.

While announcers and media are often too quick to start building statues in honor of the fighter of the moment, Jones appears to be worthy of the work in stone, having completely broken one of the best light heavyweights of all-time and doing so with ease.

Jon Jones

Jones has won the light heavyweight championship without being tested, the kind of virtuoso feat that should cause 205-pound fighters to think about bulking up or cutting down. In the last six weeks, he’s out-wrestled a strong All-American wrestler and used a vast and varied offensive arsenal to dismantle a very dangerous striker, and he made both look easy.

He’s made everything look easy thus far, and the scary/incredible thing about Jones is that he’s only going to keep getting better.

In addition to being athletically gifted and blessed with tremendous natural instincts and physical traits, Jones is a tireless worker by all accounts, a true student of the game who is always in the gym and watches film on opponents like most people watch regular television.

Having risen to the top of the light heavyweight division in just three years as a mixed martial artist, imagine where he’ll be in three more years, or five years from now when he’s 28-years-old and just entering his athletic peak?

Now step back from the cage and understand that Jones is not only the future of the sport on pay-per-view or in terms of being the blueprint for MMA hopefuls from here on out; Jones is the new face of the sport, and one that could carry MMA to new heights.

As Kenny Florian tweeted following Saturday’s brilliant performance, “Jon Jones needs to be called Neo.” That’s exactly how it looks for Jones in the cage right now, but the potential is there for him to be “The One” outside of the Octagon as well.

How many professional athletes do you know who chase down and subdue a robbery on the day of the biggest performance of their career? Jones did just that on Saturday afternoon, an act that should force all critics to retire “MMA fighters as thugs” from their list of overused cliches forever.

But his potential Madison Avenue appeal extends well beyond his Saturday afternoon act of heroism, though that story alone should earn him some time on the morning news circuit in my opinion, and I’m not talking about SportsCenter.

Jones is a smart, articulate young man who has exhibited the blend of humility and unwavering confidence bordering on cockiness that all great athletes possess. He’s good-looking, God-fearing and dedicated to his family first, his sport second and doing the right thing in all situations, a combination of characteristics and traits that have historically appealed to a wide range of corporate sponsors, television executives and everyday people around the world.

Georges St. Pierre started stepping into the mainstream with appearances in a series of print and television ads for Gatorade and Under Armour, and Jones could very easily follow in his teammates footsteps, if not exceed them.

He is tall, wears tailor-made suits to press conferences and possesses the rare ability to bring an air of showmanship to the biggest occasions, and thus far, Jones has exceeded the lofty expectations that were set out for him.

This past week was a like a TV mini-series on Jon Jones, with great episodes Wednesday, Thursday and Friday leaving you anxious and excited for Saturday’s series finale, hopeful that it would be as good as you expected, and not the last episode of Seinfeld all over again.

Saturday’s closing performance exceeded expectations and left many people anticipating the numerous equally impressive sequels that are sure to follow.

Just don’t be surprised if it’s more than MMA fans who are hungry for more of Jones. He’s the future of this sport both inside and outside of the cage, and the future started on Saturday night.

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