Jon Jones Talks Training, Machida, Bruce Lee and Much More
Exclusive Interview with Jon "Bones" Jones
Jon Jones is rapidly gaining steam as one of the most popular up and coming fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. With a perfect 9-0 professional record, three of which have come inside the UFC, Jones is looking to establish himself as one of the elite fighters of the stacked 205lb division. Though he is busy training for his next fight, which has yet to be made official, Jones took some time out of his schedule to talk with us about his training, his last fight, and some of the biggest names in the light heavyweight division and what he thinks about them.
SK: You have only been fighting professionally for about a year and a half now. Are you surprised to find yourself with three wins in the UFC so early into your career?
JJ: Well, yeah, it’s definitely pretty surprising how fast things have gone. Everything I do in life I try to do wholeheartedly and put my all into it. I can’t say that I’m surprised about my success because of how hard I train, but I am surprised at how much success I’ve achieved in such a short amount of time.
SK: A lot of people call you an unorthodox fighter. I don’t know if it’s because of the crazy strikes or the Greco-Roman base, but do you consider yourself to be unorthodox and do you think that has helped you?
JJ: Yeah, definitely. I don’t necessarily consider myself unorthodox. I’m more into Bruce Lee’s line of thinking; the best way is to have no way, and while I’m out there I try to keep that in mind, so I can’t really say that I’m a boxer or a Thai fighter—I try to use techniques from every style of fighting and I think that helps a lot. When a guy is in a training camp for me he has a lot to think about—spinning back kicks and elbows, Tae Kwon Do kicks, the throws—so yeah I just really try to incorporate the thought of having no way, and it’s really helped me out tremendously.
SK: You mentioned Bruce Lee. Do you have any other experience—besides Greco-Roman wrestling—in traditional martial arts?
JJ: No I don’t. Wrestling was my passion, but since I’ve become a martial artist I’ve been trying to take it all in and understand it to the fullest. Bruce Lee being one of my idols, it’s taught me a lot.
SK: You used a lot of Greco-Roman throws against Stephan Bonnar, something you seemed to shy away from against Jake O’Brien. Is that because O’Brien came from a wrestling base too or did you just have an entirely different game plan going into that fight for other reasons?
JJ: I wanted to have a different game plan for that fight. I believe that fighting is like a chess game, so it’s about making the right moves and moving the right pieces. If—on paper—Stephan Bonnar was a guy not known for his wrestling, so obviously that was the area I wanted to attack most—his main weakness. With Jake O’Brien—known for having better than average wrestling—I didn’t want to even give him that chance with me. It was kind of like Frank Mir vs. Nogueira, you know, everyone thought it was going to be this great Jiu-Jitsu match and Frank Mir didn’t even take it there to give Nogueira the opportunity to use his number one strength. That was a big part of my game plan.
SK: Looking at the first round, it looked a little close to me. I know he hit you a few times in the face, you hit him with some jabs and leg kicks, but what did you think about the first round?
JJ: Yeah he was definitely able to hit me in the face a lot more than I thought he could, so I’ve recently been trying to let that go and not beat myself up about it too much because it is a fight and obviously you are going to get hit in the face throughout your career. It was a learning experience. I think—by far—he had the best boxing combinations that I’ve fought against. I think the first round was definitely close. Back stage I didn’t really warm up the way that I wanted to—the nerves of UFC 100, the big stage and all of the celebrities. I was ready to fight but my body definitely wasn’t as awake as my mind was. The second round I felt so much better. My body was awake, I actually had a sweat going, and I really feel like round one could have looked a lot like round 2 if I had warmed up properly.
SK: You mentioned that you have been trying not to beat yourself up about the performance. Regardless of what you thought, he was the first person you have finished in the UFC, so was this your biggest win because of that or do you think the performance was still not up to par?
JJ: I don’t think it was up to par at all. I have high expectations for myself and I try to compare myself to the best guys in the world—the Machidas and the Silvas and the St-Pierres—I don’t even think I’m in that category but if I keep that mindset it can only elevate me higher. In the Stephan Bonnar fight he really didn’t hit me at all—maybe five or six times in the third round—but that’s the name of the game and I really don’t want to end up like one of these boxers, stuttering. I want to end my career with a good head on my shoulders, so I take pride in not getting hit and that’s why the Bonnar fight was much better than the Jake O’Brien fight.
SK: You just mentioned Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, and St-Pierre. I was actually going to ask you about all three of them. Focusing on Silva and Machida, they are both considered to be some of the most dominant fighters in the sport right now. Why do you think they have been unbeatable up to this point?
JJ: I think they’re so dominant because of the years of experience they have. Anderson Silva has been fighting in Muay Thai championships and boxing championships since he was a kid. Now he’s in his mid-thirties and he’s out there fighting comfortable, unlike myself, who is kind of a baby in this sport. Guys like us have to be more careful. We can’t just go out there and be completely comfortable and let all of our moves flow because Silva and Machida have been in all of these competitions since they were babies basically. It’s going to take a long time for us young fighters to get like that, but I think when you can be completely comfortable, that’s when you can just go out there and pull the trigger left and right, really let all of your techniques flow. That’s where I’m trying to get to.
SK: Some of the critics of Silva and Machida have pointed to the faulty game plans of their opponents—Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans specifically—is it more the skill they possess or the faulty game plans of their opponents?
JJ: I think it’s more a matter of skill. Having recently joined Greg Jackson’s camp, I know he is an absolute mastermind when it comes to game planning in this sport. You can have a phenomenal game plan, but you have to be able to execute the game plan. Those guys are on a different page right now, but everyone can be beaten, everyone has a chin, so I try not to right anyone’s coattails too much because I have to fight these guys in the future. I’m not really looking at how invincible they appear to be. No one is invincible.
SK: How did the decision to move to Greg Jackson’s camp come about and are you still affiliated with the Bomb Squad in New York or are you done with that team? Are you going to move your camp to New Mexico?
JJ: As of right now I’m just there for one week every month and when I accept my next fight I’m going to move there for a few months, along with Tri-Star Gym in Montreal to work with Georges and Firas. I’m totally still associated with Bomb Squad though, those guys are still my home and they taught me all of the basics and I owe them a lot. But everyone starts somewhere and the guys that stick with their original teams usually don’t get as far. It was just a necessary move to seek out better training and better training partners.
SK: Have you officially become a part of the Tri-Star Gym as well because I had originally heard you were going to be moving there to train with Georges St-Pierre and his team?
JJ: I have been going to Montreal and Albuquerque. Montreal is a lot closer to my house so I have been trying to spend one week in Montreal and one week in Albuquerque every month. Before my next fight I’m going to be seeing Firas, Jackson, and Phil Nurse.
SK: They are going to be your corner men probably?
SK: Have you been able to spar with St-Pierre yet because I know he was nursing that groin injury as of last week?
JJ: No, I haven’t sparred with him yet. We have gone out to dinner several times and we have just been working on the biggest part of our relationship right now, which is the friendship. We have been spending a lot of time together and I’ve been working with his training partners and coaches. We’ll be going at it as soon as he’s ready to go.
SK: If you’re eventually moving your camp to New Mexico does that mean you’re going to be spending less time in Montreal and more at Jackson’s?
JJ: I haven’t really decided yet where I want to spend the bulk of my time. I have learned so much about fighting in both camps, so both places are pretty much equal right now. Either way we are all affiliated with one another so we’re all one big program. If I’m learning something in Montreal with Firas, he tells Greg so Greg knows exactly what I’m learning and visa versa.
SK: Rashad Evans and Keith Jardine both train at Greg Jaskson’s camp and they are obviously top fighters in your weight class. Have you trained with them and do you know how that relationship is going to work?
JJ: I trained with Keith briefly before the Thiago Silva fight and it was great. We have a really great bond and relationship. As far as us fighting against each other in competition, you will never, ever see it. It just won’t happen.
SK: There has been a lot of that going around lately. Silva and Machida is probably the biggest example going back and forth with the UFC, but there is probably going to be one fight down the road that is going to make this teammate vs. teammate issue come to a head. You’re saying that there is no way?
JJ: We have a policy at Jackson’s. The number one policy is friends come before business. Friendship is way more valuable than money. It’s all about morals over business. I’m really not worried about that right now though and I don’t want to start any drama.
SK: There was a rumor going around that you were going to be fighting Mark Coleman before he was matched up against Tito Ortiz. Were you ever approached about that?
JJ: I was not approached about that but I heard lots of rumors about it. I don’t think I would have accepted that fight. Mark’s a little older and—
SK: You don’t really have much to gain from that, you think?
JJ: Yeah, it would just be that I beat up the old guy, you know? It would be wrestler vs. wrestler, not a very good match up for Mark I don’t think. It’s not a good match up for me either because it doesn’t improve me too much. I mean no disrespect to Mark, he is a great warrior with a ton of fight left in him but I don’t think it would have been a good match up for either of us.
SK: Do you have any idea who you’ll be fighting next? Anyone you want to fight next or even a timeframe for your next fight?
JJ: I’ve never called out a fighter in my career and I don’t plan on doing it, but I would like to fight in November or early December.
SK: There are a bunch of cards going on around that time, but you haven’t been approached about anything officially?
SK: Forrest Griffin and Thiago Silva seem to be two names that would be possible. Silva is coming off of a huge win while Griffin is coming off of a huge loss. How would you feel about either one of those match ups?
JJ: I came into this sport to fight the best guys in the world, and I take a lot of pride in that, so I would feel great about either one of those opponents. I haven’t lost and I’m always learning new techniques so I have no reason to doubt myself against anyone. I would take a fight against pretty much anyone they gave me right now.
SK: How do you see your future in the division. You’re obviously going for the title but is that your sole focus or are you taking it fight by fight?
JJ: The belt is really my reason for getting up in the morning and meditating and fighting. It’s the reason I train, stay focused, and stay hungry. But I do take it fight by fight because that’s what it is, one fight at a time. I see the belt around my house though, I picture it every day and I’m trying to bring it into existence. I’ve been living a pretty clean life up to now, you know, so the belt is my long-term goal and my short-term goal. It’s what I’m living for right now.
SK: You’ve mentioned some people you respect and look up to, like Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and Lyoto Machida—
JJ: No, I don’t look up to Machida.
SK: Oh, you don’t?
JJ: No, not at all.
SK: Any specific reason?
JJ: I think people are putting him on a pedestal where he is just unbeatable and he hasn’t even defended his belt yet. He has so many fans, which is fine but it sickens me to see so many other fighters put him on such a pedestal to the point where mentally he’s already beaten half of the division.
SK: Well the reason I brought them up—people like St-Pierre and Machida, and you mentioned Bruce Lee—there doesn’t seem to be too many fighters who really treat this as martial arts. If you go to certain MMA gyms they really don’t respect traditional martial arts whereas guys like Keith Jardine, Georges St-Pierre and others like them really seem to treat this as a sport about martial arts and not a blood sport or a tough man competition.
JJ: Absolutely. If you’re going to be something you should be it wholeheartedly, and I think the mental aspect is a big part of fighting. You need to control your mind and know how to use your mind to think like a warrior, then you can perform like a warrior. I think people who think about it as a tough man contest can only go so far.
SK: There is an MMA team around me—Boston—and they have something called the Wall of Shame, which is a collection of pictures of traditional martial arts techniques that they say don’t work in real situations. What do you think about that attitude?
JJ: Wow. I think that’s really sad. I don’t think their coach is much of a martial artist if he believes that. Any technique, no matter how silly it seems can work if you practice it. You just have to believe in it and make it your own. I’m willing to take a stab and say that this school probably doesn’t have too many champions.
A lot of people were concerned about me training with Greg Jackson because they thought that he would change my style of throwing weird things, but he encourages me to throw whatever I want. He has just helped to give me a base to pull from. The best coaches allow their fighters to flow.
SK: Before I let you go, do you think you have any specific weaknesses that you’re working on right now?
JJ: As of right now I’m working on my awareness. I got hit too many times against Jake O’Brien so I’ve been working on that big time. I’ve realized that since I’ve been so focused on offense I haven’t really built up my basic defense. My Jiu-Jitsu has also improved tremendously. Getting a submission under my belt in the UFC has really inspired me. I’m excited about it, like a kid with a brand new toy.
SK: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me today, we really appreciate it.
JJ: No problem man. Great talking with you.
Photos used with permission by the UFC