T.J. Jones was packing meat when the call came in on Feb. 20. It wasn’t your typical what do you want for dinner type thing. It was Bellator MMA’s matchmakers and they had a proposition: Would you fight Jake Hager at Bellator 221 in Chicago? When asked about his initial thoughts after the call? “When Bellator calls you don’t say no. Damn, I’m too fat for this stuff.”
With less than three months to go before the fight, Jones had some weight to cut.
“I was 330 pounds on February 20th when I got the call for the fight,” Jones told MMATorch this week. “I had to cut 65 pounds in two months to take the fight.”
How exactly did he cut 65 pounds in two months?
“Sweats and trash bags and I got used to being hungry, I don’t recommend it though.”
Ever the opportunist, Jones was game and cut the weight. Jones spent some time on the amateur circuit and had two pro fights before the Bellator call came but lack of motivation and starting a family kept him from dedicating himself truly to his fight career.
“I’ve been fighting since 2008 in the Missouri area. I was pretty good during my ammy run. Lack of motivation and other aspects in my life drove me other directions however I always stayed fighting one way or another. The whole Bellator ordeal happened out of the blue. My manager set all that up. I believe I have 25 fights, [amateur] MMA, pro-MMA and pro boxing.”
Jones tells me he officially retired in 2017, and has four children of his own plus his wife’s two children from a prior relationship but he doesn’t like the term “stepchildren.”
“Four that are mine and two stepsons (twins) but I dont like the word ‘step.’ Those are my boys, my best friends, (I’ve) been with them since they were 1 1/2 and they’re 6 now.”
When asked what he knew about his opponent the former WWE champion who is 1-0 in Bellator MMA, Jones admitted he didn’t know much about Jake Hager until he “YouTubed him.”
When asked what his game plan was against the former Oklahoma wrestler, Jones’ plan was simple.
“For sure he’s a physical force, the game plan was to punch him in the jaw,” he said. “I failed.”
Jones is never one to pull punches or miss an opportunity to poke fun at himself. Jones became an MMA meme after the Bellator 221 media day faceoffs which led to a lot of people comparing him to certain heavy set celebrities. He had a good laugh at his own expense.
“I enjoyed all the comparisons to famous people,” Jones said. He added that he didn’t take any of the jabs personally. “Not even in the slightest. I enjoy every aspect of this game including everyone’s opinion. They all have value.”
If you’re wondering if Jones is expecting another date in the cage at Bellator, things are looking good. Bellator President Scott Coker said he enjoyed Jones and wanted him back.
“I don’t want to count my eggs before they hatch but I know from a few sources there are talks on having me back,” Jones said. “Scott was a real nice and said just that. Where that goes at this point in time, I’m not so sure.”
The fans of MMA could do much worse, with stories like Greg Hardy and BJ Penn recently MMA needs some feel-good stories. TJ Jones is exactly that. Let’s hope we get to see Jones again in the Bellator cage, and even more let’s hope his kids can see him fight live, for the memory book.