LAS VEGAS – Jon Jones is a generational athlete, a game-changer, a guy who years from now will be looked at among mixed martial artists in the same light as men like Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Willie Mays and Bobby Orr are held in their respective sports.
He's so good, so tremendously gifted, he can fight the way his opponent would prefer and still win going away.
That's exactly what he did on Saturday when he drubbed Daniel Cormier to retain the UFC light heavyweight title in one-sided manner in the main event of UFC 182 at the MGM Grand Garden.
Jones had a five-inch height and 12-inch reach advantage on Cormier, a two-time member of the U.S. men's Olympic freestyle wrestling team. Cormier's best chance seemed to be to get past Jones' length and reach and battle him on the inside.
And for the better part of five rounds, that's how the fight was fought.
Yet Jones won conclusively and authoritatively. Judges Cardo Urso, Tony Weeks and Marcos Rosales each had it 49-46 for the champion in a fight that he took over when it mattered most.
Cormier's slogan has been "Embrace the Grind," and he literally sprinted from the locker room to the cage Saturday wearing a T-shirt with "King of the Grind" emblazoned on the front.
But that crown Saturday, as just about every other crown, belonged to Jones.
"I felt like we were kings of the grind tonight," Jones said of himself and his teammates from Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albquerque, N.M., who were 4-0 Saturday. "We work hard at Jackson's. ...So we embrace the grind and tonight, we were kings of the grind."
Jones described his job as having to "face tough, scary dudes." But there is no one tougher or scarier who competes in mixed martial arts than Jones.
That he's the best fighter in the world is no longer even an argument.
The only argument could be his place in MMA history. And yes, he's only 27 years old, but he's been in the UFC for seven-plus years and he's obliterated the best 205-pounders on the planet.
Only Alexander Gustafsson even got close, and Jones seemed to confirm rumors that he barely trained for that bout.
He talked about having a big belly between fights and said he didn't use to stay in shape between bouts. But he's moving to Albuquerque, N.M., so he can train full-time and expects it to make a major difference.
"That's going to be huge," Jones said. "My next fight is going to be something else."
Jones will fight the winner of the Jan. 24 bout in Stockholm, Sweden, between Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson, UFC president Dana White said.
It will be an uphill climb no matter which of them comes out of it.
Jones is 6-foot-4 with an 84-inch reach that allows him to get across the Octagon far more quickly than most fighters.
Cormier, whose voice quivered with emotion at one point as he spoke, said it wasn't Jones' reach that made him so difficult, though.
"He has a way of actually making himself feel bigger inside the cage," Cormier said. "It's not his height or anything. It's his abilities that make him hard to deal with."
Jones said it is "feasible" that he could do enough this year to end it as the greatest fighter in MMA history. Most believe that to be former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, though there is a legion of fans who still bestow that honor on former Pride heavyweight king Fedor Emelianenko.
White hasn't been ready to tab Jones in that role, though he admitted Jones is getting much closer to it.
"It's hard for me because Jon Jones is so young and has so many more things to accomplish, but yeah, he's beaten the who's who, he's cleaned out the division and he's breaking records," White said. "If this continues, yeah, he's probably the greatest ever."
Jones has always been his own man, and he's gotten a lot of hate from the UFC fan base as a result. Some see him as phony or fake. Others believe he's disingenuous.
He speaks openly about his Christian faith, but a wonderful piece on Deadspin noted how he was hitting on waitresses and asking for their number despite having a fiancée at home who is the mother of his children.
Fans find it easy to criticize him – and admittedly, Jones sometimes gives them more ammunition than they need – but there is no denying his physical gifts.
He gave mixed answers about his plans moving forward. He said on television shortly after the fight that he could make 185 pounds if he suffered to do it. At the post-fight news conference, he first said he was open to a bout with heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Cormier's close friend and training partner at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
"To be honest, I'd fight Cain Velasquez in a heartbeat, I really would," Jones said. "I would love to fight all of AKA's best athletes and defeat them all."
But then he said he comfortably makes the 205-pound light heavyweight limit and said several times he's staying in the division.
He's always been unconventional and a bit different than most. He was out meditating before he won the title from Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in Newark, N.J., when he happened upon a robbery. He ran down a man who had robbed an elderly woman and held him there until the police arrived.
Saturday, he couldn't get comfortable in his locker room during the early preliminary fights, so he went out and mingled with the fans. He signed autographs and got a kick out of seeing the shocked look on their faces to see him in their midst.
"I drew energy from the fans," Jones said.
He had energy in abundance Saturday, turning the momentum around after Cormier's strong second round made it a fight. Jones won going away and there was zero question when the bell rang about who won the fight.
"He has a champion's spirit," Cormier said in tribute.
And he's got the talent as well.
Unless he loses his focus, Jon Jones is going to be at the top of the division – and the sport – for a long, long time.