COMMENTARY | Does the UFC have a problem with current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones? Jones is the top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the promotion, has defended the title a division-record six times, and has only one loss in 20 career professional bouts.
But is he feeling the love from the UFC? Not like Ronda Rousey is, Jones says.
During a recent media tour for his upcoming fight at UFC 172, Jones was asked where he fits within the organization's promotional efforts.
And it doesn't sound like it's where he'd like.
"We don't always see eye-to-eye with the UFC, so I don't know if they are always necessarily pushing me and whether that's a smart idea on their end or not. Who knows?" he said. "I do know that they are pushing Ronda Rousey really hard, and she's gotten a lot of great opportunities. I don't know what they're going to do, but I'm pushing myself all the time so, I'm not really worried."
The comparison to Rousey comes at an interesting time. It was recently announced that the 27-year-old had signed with Warner Bros. Studios for two major films: "Entourage" and "The Athena Project." Her filmography also includes "The Expendables 3" and "Fast & Furious 7."
Despite potential backlash following her contentious coaching stint on "The Ultimate Fighter," the UFC's women's bantamweight champion's stock is still very high.
Additionally, "Rowdy" is slated to defend her title against Sara McMann at UFC 170 on Feb. 22, less than two months since her last bout.
In comparison, Jones' next fight will take place at UFC 172 on April 26 against Glover Teixeira, a fight that was rescheduled three times and comes seven months after his controversial decision victory over Alexander Gustafsson.
"Bones" is the most dominant champion on the UFC's roster. However, the former "TUF" coach has also caused the promotion a few headaches, including a DUI arrest and his refusal to fight Chael Sonnen on short notice in 2012, which led to the cancelation of UFC 151 -- a first for the organization.
Needless to say, UFC President Dana White was furious.
"This is one of those selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn't just affect you. You just affected 16 other families' lives," White said.
"I don't think this is a decision that's going to make Jon Jones popular with the fans, sponsors, cable distributors, television network executives, or other fighters," he added
To his credit, Jones (19-1-0, nine KO/TKOs) has proven to be one of the most dynamic fighters in mixed martial arts. His combination of striking and submission skills, as well as a UFC-best 84.5-inch reach, make him dangerous and unpredictable.
And with fighters like Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in his wake, he's proven himself time and again.
In fact, during his current 10-fight winning streak, he's finished eight of his opponents.
But maybe that's not the problem.
"I know that I'm a lot different from some of the guys from the past," Jones said. "Guys like Chuck Liddell, and guys like Matt Hughes that would just get up and do anything, anytime, and never voice their opinion. I'm trying to change a lot of things in the game -- making sure the fighters are being respected, making sure our own brands are being respected, things like that. We just don't always see eye-to-eye on everything. Either way it works out."
In regard to the "guys from the past," it was that "anything, anytime" mentality that endeared fighters like Liddell to fans.
They were fighters first, and they went down swinging.
However, the MMA landscape has changed, and nowadays there's a lot more to lose -- and gain.
Jones has tremendous marketability. His talent, outgoing personality, and resume make him a valuable asset.
Should he take a few more risks? Sure.
Should he be more relatable to fans? Maybe.
Should he toe the company line a little bit more? That's for him to decide.
Regardless, as long as he keeps winning, and if he is "trying to change a lot of things in the game," it all certainly will work out.
And maybe the movies will come next.
Paul Putignano lives in Southern California, where he has covered mixed martial arts and a wide array of sports across the Greater Los Angeles area. His work has been published in a variety of newspapers and online publications.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Jon Jones
- Ronda Rousey