In my last article, I spoke about the volatility of Mixed Martial Arts and how anything can happen in the octagon. Because things are so unpredictable, most great fighters have losses on their records. Except for one man.
Jon ‘Bones’ Jones uniquely defies volatility inside the cage. His world-class athleticism, complete mastery of the spectrum of MMA disciplines and ridiculous reach allow him to be unbeaten and unmatched. He also exists today in a particularly shit division in a time where welterweight, middleweight, lightweight and featherweight are full of talent and more exciting than ever. That’s not to say that he’s never been tested, he has. He came up a time where there was a lot of talent in that division and has disposed of some of the greater fighters that have fought in the UFC.
The volatility of Jon Jones’ takes place outside the cage: a documented love of steroids, driving offenses and cocaine topped with a truly sociopathic hit-and-run involving a pregnant woman (Jones returned to the scene to retrieve cash before fleeing again). There has recently been an interesting shift in this narrative; from ‘bad boy’ to bad person. This is likely due to his repeated moral infractions that he justifies with hard-to-listen-to narcissistic religious rhetoric.
Jones became the youngest UFC champion in history aged 23, only beginning MMA training at 19 as a JUCO wrestling champion. The fact that his striking is one of the best in best in the UFC is baffling if you consider the amateur boxing credentials of someone like Alexander Gustafson. There are parallels with Georges St. Pierre: Pierre learned to wrestle as an adult with great effect in the UFC, getting the better of wrestlers with years of experience in collegiate competition. Jones’ brothers both play for the NFL, which gives an insight into why he is the most gifted athlete in the UFC.
In my view, Jones represents what will likely be the future of MMA. There was a time when MMA was about a contest between styles. The style, not the man, was the superpower. After this, athleticism became a kind of superpower of its own. Watch early Ultimate Fighter seasons to see ex-NFL players storm opponents using strength and athleticism, some of them with less than 6 months training (my favorite was child-like colossus Marcus Jones in season 10).
Traditionally, fighters come into their prime between the ages of 26 and 33. Most fighters start training in their mid to late teens and most MMA fighters don’t compete professionally until 20/21. I’m making generalisations here but bear with me for the sake of argument. Jon Jones’ genetic gifts meant that he could be a champion at 23 and remain dominant inside the octagon ever since.
Jones’ natural abilities neutralized the extensive fighting experience that many of his opponents had. Jones, unlike many fighters who come to the UFC and dominate, doesn’t have extensive pre-MMA combat experience anywhere except wrestling. In the future, my predictions will be that kids will start training kickboxing, boxing, BJJ and wrestling in their young teens and those with Jon Jones level of athletic ability will come front of the pack, becoming champions at 18 or 19.
On the Joe Rogan Experience, Welterweight champion Kamuru Usman recalled watching the UFC with Jon Jones back when they were wrestling buddies at college. Neither of them thought they would participate in MMA at the time. In the future, I believe the move to MMA will be a premeditated one, decided early in an athlete’s career.
The question remains: how good is Jon Jones really?
Is Jon Jones a once-in-a-generation athlete or a sample of the future of MMA? I think Jon Jones is the closest we have to a top-level athlete like Lebron James coming into MMA. We will only understand how much of an anomaly Jones is when MMA fighters earn a comparable salary to boxers and NFL/NBA players and there is an equal flow of talent.
I fear that everymen like Dustin Poirier, Michael Bisping, and Cowboy Cerrone will be pushed from the spotlight by unrelatable genetic freaks like those in other sports that I don’t give a shit about. People always seem to say that in MMA ‘anything can happen’, that’s why I love it. The only exception is when Jones is fighting. I wonder if that will always be the case, or if he is the first of the fighting super-athletes.