by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
Jon Jones is long removed from his days as a YouTube warrior; mining the Internet for instructional clips he could incorporate into his arsenal.
One of his favorite concepts from his wrestling days was misdirection – fake one way and go another. Keep your opponent off-balance. Be unpredictable.
These days, he travels a great deal around his home state of New York, still learning to fight, trying to glean as many perspectives as possible. Now, everything is in real time.
A year ago, he was a bouncer with a JC wrestling championship under his belt. MMA was quick money and would support his pregnant fiancé. But it would also appeal to an unbinding love for Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali.
“Bruce Lee’s strategy was, ‘the way is to have no way,’” he said. “So, basically that’s just being formless, trying to incorporate as many angles, aspects, and mindsets from different trainers and cultures.”
It’s been around a year since he leaped headfirst into the sport, and has a camp in Team Bomb Squad. Many peg him as the next big thing in the light heavyweight division. He did it with misdirection – grab a kick, throw a spinning elbow, stop Joe Silva in his tracks.
Wise beyond his 22 years, he’s not ready to fall into the trap of believing his own hype.
“I am grateful for all the compliments I get, and it motivates me,” he told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “The days I don’t want to get up and go for a run, or I’m starting to feel sorry for myself and not train as hard, sometimes I think about all the people who have faith in me and believe I’m going to be the next champion. I try to carry myself like a championship mindset, and work like a champion.
“But at the same time, hearing a lot of those things can really mislead a younger fighter and make him believe he’s greater than what he is. Right now I’m just obsessed about my weaknesses and correcting those, becoming a more aware and alert fighter.”
Jones uses his idols as reference points for evolving as a fighter.
“My jiu-jitsu’s not as strong as it needs to be, some of my defense is not as strong as it needs to be, and I know these things,” he said. “There’s just so much more that I need to know. Martial arts is endless, there’s no one who knows it all. Bruce Lee was great, but did he have takedown abilities, did he have great jiu-jitsu? No. Right now, I’m trying to be a true champion, and I want to do the things that Bruce Lee wasn’t figuring out. I want to be like a Muhammed Ali that can actually wrestle and do jiu-jitsu. I’m hungry to be the best. I know there’s a lot of guys out there saying that, but I truly mean it.”
Jake O’Brien is next at UFC 100, and there’s not a whole lot of mystery about the course of the fight. O’Brien likes to throw hands, and later, shoot. Jones is happy to detail his plan to counteract that skill set.
“O’Brien has been shooting that same double leg takedown for the three or four years he’s been in the UFC, and I’ve prepared myself to stop his takedowns,” he said. “I’ve been working submissions from the front headlock position, and I’m prepared to be there a lot.”
One of the places he hangs his hat is with the Cornell wrestling team. Until recently, they were dumping him on his head every day.
“Those guys are all heavyweights, and they’ve been shooting on me a lot,” he continued. “It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to stuff a lot of those shots. And I believe that those guys are on a complete different level of collegiate wrestling than Jake O’Brien. I’m preparing to push him into deep waters and expose a lot of the things that maybe a lot of fighters haven’t, except maybe Cain Velasquez.”
O’Brien is still trying to re-invent himself at light heavyweight after a failed run as a heavy. At UFC 94, he won a split decision against Christian Wellisch in a lackluster fight. But on any given day, he can still dump opponents on their head.
“I know he knows a lot more, and I’m not going to underestimate him, at all,” said Jones. “My plan is to go out there and do what I want to do, and make it my home the very first round.”
It doesn’t bother him that old opponent Stephan Bonnar is billed above him.
“I wasn’t disappointed at all,” he said. “I’m just really privileged to be on the card in the first place, and a lot of my friends had concerns about Bonnar being on the card, and I tried to explain that Bonnar’s a great guy and has tons of fans. The UFC’s just doing what’s necessary, and my time will come.”
If he’s ready to hype anything, it will be when he grows out of his young body and gets the “man strength” he’s waited for. That will take time. The “rookie mistakes” he says he’s made – that have actually turned into gifts – will need to be refined.
“I feel like I have a little momentum going on, but I try not to focus on the past,” he said. “Muhammed Ali says you give different strokes for different folks. So I just focus on Jake O’Brien and I take it one match at a time. Right now, O’Brien is my title fight, and all my energy and focus on him.”