Given that Jon Jones has said he’ll be a changed man when returns next summer, how skeptical are you that he has matured (on a 1-5 scale, 5 being very very skeptical, 1 being you think he’s sincere and has changed)? And with that in mind, given today’s landscape and projecting it to next summer, what are top options for Jones’s first fight back?
MATT ECHOCHARD, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
The most recent suspension really appeared to be a mistake on Jon Jones’s part. If he was taking anything that would help him, it would most likely would have shown up in his bout against Ovince St. Preux. I don’t know if his attitude has changed or not, though, as that remains to be seen.
As far his return bout goes, he should face someone else in the top ten, maybe a rematch against a previous win to see where his skills and mindset are. My selection would be the rematch with Alexander Gustaffson.
ADAM TINDAL, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’m rooting for Jon Jones. I made sure to listen to his appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast and I honestly got the feeling that he was in a much better place and taking a deeper consideration toward his priorities. He really did make some disappointing decisions in the past, but then again so did I. When you think you’re at rock bottom, all that’s left to do is rebuild yourself. If Jon truly wants to do that, then only time will tell. Getting his belt back in impressive fashion will have everyone singing a different tune, and that’s the only fight I care to see him in.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
On a scale from 1-5, I’m an 8. I don’t believe for a minute that Jones is sincere. We’ve heard all this stuff before from him. He talks about how he’s changed and matured and all that, then he screw up somehow. I’ll give him every opportunity to prove that he’s changed, but actions are the only thing anyone is going to care about. Words are meaningless, we want actions. Jones has to prove that he’s changed. The only way he can do that is to string together periods of time without these critical mistakes. Time is the only measure of whether or not Jones has changed.
As for who he could fight, Alexander Gustafsson springs to mind. Maybe Ryan Bader or Anthony Johnson, depending on their title fortunes. Or if Daniel Cormier isn’t the champion at that point, a rematch with Jones makes sense.
WADE KELLER, MMATORCH EDITOR
No one should believe Jones is sincere, at least not publicly. He needs to earn anyone’s trust, and trusting him before he proves it is just going to undercut his incentive. People, though, do “grow up” and change if their issues are youthful indiscretion and being influenced by bad people, especially when fame and money are involved. I don’t believe con men change. I believe people who think they can smile and charm and bullshit their out of anything don’t change. So the question for me is whether Jones was making youthful mistakes and he’s matured enough to see what it cost him and he really has changed course, or if he’s just adjusting his con man bullshitting skills to fit the latest circumstance because he knows he can talk his way out of anything convincingly enough with a large enough audience. So I’m at a 3 out of 5. I can’t tell the difference right now, but I’m open to the idea that the price he’s paid in professional pride, personal accomplishments, financial loss, and public humiliation has been enough to shake him out of the lane he was in and away from the people steering him into bad places.
As for his first fight back, Alexander Gustafsson or Daniel Cormier. Cormier is getting up there in age and I want Cormier to have a chance to avenge his loss while still in his prime, not in the chapter that Anderson Silva suddenly found himself in once he hit his late 30s. Gustaffson is the more intriguing fight, style-wise, for me, but only if he’s really healthy and at the top of his game. I’ll be watching either way.
NOW CHECK OUT PART ONE OF THIS ROUNDTABLE: ROUNDTABLE (pt. 1 of 2): Jon Jones says he’ll be changed man when he returns; are you skeptical and what’s next for him?