When Jon Jones takes on Ryan Bader at UFC 126, he won't just be fighting the All-American wrestler from Arizona. Jones will be fighting to meet the expectations foisted upon any athlete who shows promise early. The light heavyweight has been a fan favorite since he started in the UFC, but with a large legion of fans comes heavy expectations. From MMAFighting.com:
"Meeting people's expectations is something I do worry about, and it's something Greg [Jackson] tells me not to think about," said Jones. "He says, 'You know Jon, you don't even need to win a fight, when you think about it. You're 23 and you're still learning. You're still a baby, so no fight for you should ever be a big, must-win fight for you, and no name or no opponent besides the cream of the crop should even effect you. You have so much time, a setback right now would only make you better.'"
It's hard to believe that he's been fighting for just under three years, and has just six fights with the UFC. Jones made a name by picking up two wins over Jake O'Brien, Andre Gusmao and Stephan Bonnar with flashy moves like spinning elbows. He was disqualified in his fight with Matt Hamill for throwing an illegal elbow, but that hasn't stopped Jones from using the effective technique. He won his next two fights via TKO, with his elbows stopping both Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko.
Those wins make plenty of fans wonder when Jones is going to get a title shot, putting more expectations on his broad shoulders. That's a heavy load for any man. With the mark he's already made on the UFC, it's easy to forget that Jones is just 23 years old.