Respect the Champ

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I really don’t like Jon Jones (I’ll state exactly why later in the article) but after his measured demolition of Glover Teixeira, the most anti-Bones observer of MMA must admit that he is the Man, definitely in the 205lb division, probably in the UFC as a whole and well on his way to wresting the GOAT title from Anderson Silva unless his stars change in dramatic fashion.

Currently on an 11 fight win streak (could easily be 21 with a different referee in his fight against Matt Hamill) and a record extending seventh defence of the Light Heavyweight belt (now chasing down Silva’s 11 successful title defences in any division) Jones has been the picture of calm as he’s almost casually disposed of all comers.

Whether it’s keeping opponents on the end of his reach and winning comfortable decisions, to stunning them with elbows and choking them out or just plain bullying them to the mat and taking a TKO, Jones has displayed well rounded skills combined with a maturity, versatility and creativity which has stymied.

When taken into deep waters against Alexander Gustafsson, he displayed heart to come back and win the latter rounds and earn the (only partially contentious) decision, while last night against Glover Teixeira, he refused to play it safe and engaged Glover on his own terms up against the cage and took little damage in the process while leaving his opponent a bloodied mess as his 20 fight win streak fell away.

Looking at those achievements, who can deny his quality or fail to get behind him?

Well…

Reasons I Don’t Like Jon Jones

Luck: I can’t get past the idea that Jones record breaking title reign has been facilitated by a generational gap in the Light Heavyweight division. He won the belt from a past-his-peak Shogun Rua who had a year’s worth of rung rust and defended against former champions who were either not elite anymore (Quinton Jackson), effectively Middleweights (Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen) or just didn’t turn up on fight night (Rashad Evans) and then didn’t look at all dominant against the first true contemporary that he faced for the belt.

Reach: While Jones excellent grappling and varied striking are huge parts of his arsenal, the real difference seems to be his reach. His freakish natural physique makes it so that it’s very difficult for a regularly proportioned Light Heavyweight (never mind the natural Middleweight’s he’s been facing as often as not) to damage him. Now, I know that holding a fighter’s natural physique against him is pithy, the way Jones paws out with his lead hand, earning a wearing for eye pokes in almost every single fight (should have been docked a point last night IMHO) doesn’t scan well with me.

Attitude: Lastly and by far most importantly (if I’m honest, the others are based on the fact that I don’t like his attitude and looking for more reasons to hate) Jones’ persona just rubs me up the wrong way.

From dropping an unconscious Lyoto Machida like a sack of potatoes after the referee had ended their fight to claiming he only went 80% in his closest fight to date against Alex Gustafsson, to just seeming like a complete prick in most interviews Jones just seems like an arrogant, cold, unlikeable kind of guy to me.

It’s not that he’s a heel – I’ve got a soft spot for folks who play the bad guy – it’s just that he seems so damn superior. It’s the kind of bad guy heat that makes me want to see him knocked out in the most brutal fashion possible.

On balance…

… it’s clear that my dislike stems from his persona, not his fighting skills and my other reasons are reaching more than a bit.

When I attempt to be objective, I cannot deny that Jones has impressed beyond measure, is a worthy and dominant champion and should be a clear favourite against almost any conceivable future opponent (apart from maybe Cain Velasquez should that super fight ever materialise.)

While that isn’t enough to override my dislike for his persona (which seems to be broadly shared as Jones has not exactly set the PPV buy rates aflame) and my innate tendency to back an underdog (it’s a Scottish thing) I have to say that Jones has my respect and he is quite simply the fighter at the top of the mountain in all of mixed martial arts right now.

You don’t have to like the champion, but you do have to respect him.

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