After a tumultuous 2015, Jon Jones is trying to redeem himself in the eyes of fans and his fellow fighters. Set to headline UFC 200 this Saturday night in Las Vegas, the 28-year-old believes things are coming together, and he hopes to break the downward trajectory his image took the last 18 months.
“I feel like the stars are finally aligning and I’m doing what I was meant to be doing,” Jones said in an interview with ESPN.com. “The fans know I never lost the title. I’ve been dreaming about this day and waiting for this day to fight D.C. for my belt back for a long time. At the end of the day, when I win this fight it’s going to erase him from the books as a legit champion. People are going to know he was only the champ because Jon Jones was out of the game. He won’t be considered a real champion without a victory over me and that’s motivating and inspiring. I want this era to be mine. I don’t want to share it with anyone.
“I want to show the world that you can be down but never out. I want to be a story where someone risked losing so much but ultimately turned everything around. A lot of times you hear these stories about athletes who ruined their career and they go away and no one knows what happened to them or they’re bankrupt or they end up in jail. They just ruined a great career. I want to be one of the few stories you hear where I was ruining things but ultimately turned things around and became a hero. That’s my vision for the way my story is going to play out.”
Though he defeated Daniel Cormier once before, and has already said he doesn’t consider him the biggest challenge of his career, there’s a special significance to the bout. As Jones tells it, the real eye-opening moment for how far he’d fallen last year was watching his belt get placed around Cormier’s waist. Now, he’s not allowing himself to be in a similar situation again.
“The biggest turning point for me was the night I saw my light heavyweight championship being won by someone else,” Jones said. “That’s when reality really hit me when I saw Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson competing for what I never lost. They were competing for something that meant so much to me and I couldn’t do anything about it. That night is when the realization hit that I needed to get back in there and reclaim everything that I was losing. I couldn’t watch it with anyone else. It didn’t feel right watching it. I kept thinking I should be on the screen, not in front of the screen. That’s when everything changed. That’s when I began the climb back to the top.
“…I’ve always thought about my legacy. I had always envisioned going down as the greatest of all time and that’s never left my sights. I’m very conscious of my legacy and how I’ll be remembered down the road. I also realize now how you live your life outside the sport is important to your legacy and I’m trying hard to do things right from here on out. I’m in the fight of my life for my legacy inside and outside of the Octagon.”
Penick’s Analysis: Jones is already in the conversation for the best fighter the sport has seen, but he can add to his legacy and avoid it crumbling due to his out of the cage decisions if he’s truly turned things around on that end. He got back in the cage in April, he’s starting to put some of that behind him, and he can move on to new business by putting Cormier out of the conversation for good on Saturday night. A win here puts an end to this chapter, and allows him to start fresh with his new outlook on himself and his career.
[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]
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