Thursday 21 November 2019

'Jon Jones… Get your s**t together, I’m waiting for you!'

Jon Jones screams for the fans during weigh-ins for a UFC 182 bout against Daniel Cormier, in january.
Jon Jones screams for the fans during weigh-ins for a UFC 182 bout against Daniel Cormier, in january.

Fergus Ryan

The shadow of disgraced former champion Jon Jones looms large over the UFC’s light-heavyweight division.

Despite Daniel Cormier winning the UFC light-heavyweight title on Saturday, many media and fans alike are calling his reign ‘interim’ or temporary until the real champion returns from suspension.

At UFC 187 in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Cormier added some fuel to this belief by focusing his post-fight interview entirely on Jones in a ten word statement. As Joe Rogan tried to get Cormier to describe what just happened in the Octagon, Cormier took the microphone, looked straight down the camera and screamed “Jon Jones… Get your s**t together, I’m waiting for you!”

Being a champion is about more than being great

Despite what some people think, after beating Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 last weekend, Daniel Cormier is the real UFC champion. For anyone to say his belt is only as good as an interim title is missing the point. Sure, Jon Jones didn’t lose his UFC light-heavyweight title in the Octagon; he was stripped. His activity in his personal life has meant he is not in a position to be the champion anymore.

Why do we have to put the world on hold because Jones wants to act the brat?

Dominick Cruz was never beaten as bantamweight champion. He was stripped due to knee injuries side-lining him and the belt for an inordinate amount of time. There weren’t too many people calling Renan Barao or T.J. Dillashaw an interim champion.

Same applies to the welterweight division. Georges St.-Pierre walked away for personal reasons but not too many are calling Johnny Hendricks or Robbie Lawlor title wins as ‘interim’.

There are many elements to being a champion. The most important is turning up the day of competition and being better than everyone else assembled in your bracket/weight class/division. You don’t have to be the best guy in the world to be the champion, you just have to be the best guy that showed up.

Since 2011 Jon Jones was undoubtedly the best light-heavyweight in the UFC. In theory, he probably still is the best 205lb’er in the world.

However, he’s unavailable for work at the moment. He can’t compete. Therefore, the guy that shows up for UFC light-heavyweight title fights and wins is the champion. Not the interim-champion, the real champion.

Daniel Cormier showed up and beat Anthony Johnson to become the champion.

Busy times ahead

Before the UFC 187 post-fight press conference was finished it looked like the first challenger to Cormier’s title has emerged.

The American Kickboxing Academy fighter was due to fight Ryan Bader in June but was fast tracked to the title fight after Jones went off the reservation. Bader showed up last Saturday looking to get his previously booked opponent to commit to the fight that never happened with the added bonus now of the belt being on the line.

Whether Bader’s appearance was prompted by the UFC or an organic act of opportunism, it may have created a nice story line and distraction from the shadow of Jon Jones.

If Bader is indeed the first challenger there will be a healthy line forming behind him. Alexander Gustafsson and Rashad Evans, who were beaten by former champ Jones, are now back in the mix as title challengers. After flagging in recent years life has been breathed back in to the light heavyweight division.

Weidman finishes Belfort and the TRT era is over

Despite holding two wins over Anderson Silva, UFC middleweight Chris Weidman still has an army of doubters.

The first KO win was put down to Silva’s clowning around and the second win was due to a horrific leg break. After dismantling Lyoto Machida over five rounds and finishing Vitor Belfort last weekend, the Weidman doubters will have lost a few of their number.

Belfort v Weidman was originally scheduled for UFC 173 in May 2014. After the Nevada State Athletic Commission officially banned testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) from combat sports, Belfort who was using TRT pulled out of the bout. The fight was then rescheduled for UFC 175, UFC 181 and UFC 184 but some injuries to Weidman before finally happening last weekend at UFC 187.

For a brief moment Belfort looked like he might shock the world and beat the champion. The Brazilian tagged the champ and followed up with a flurry of strikes as Weidman covered up and backed himself against the cage wall. Belfort opted not to punch himself out when he realised Weidman was recovering.

From there it was all Weidman. After securing a takedown and passing into mount a barrage of unanswered strikes forced the referee to call off the attack.

For Weidman the future looks incredibly bright. With wins over big named opponents already in the bag, he can now look forward to some competitive challenges from the pretenders to the belt.

In Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza the champion has some really tough tests particularly in the grappling stakes, which is considered to be the strongest part of his arsenal.

For Belfort, the sands of time may finally have caught up with him. Though he tried to tell us his recent resurgence had nothing to do with him being on TRT, we can say with a high degree of certainty, it did. With no sign of him retiring his next fight will be interesting.

If he can’t get any wins against decent opposition in a post TRT world his career will be forever remembered as one fuelled by questionable substances and poor choices.

Elsewhere on the card

If recent UFC events served up plenty of finishes, UFC 187 gave us some cracking fights. Justin Scoggins and Josh Sampo kicked things off with three fantastic rounds that saw Scoggins prevail. This set the tone for the rest of the card and most of the subsequent fights delivered similar, superb action.

Andrei Arlovski versus Travis Browne and Donald Cerrone versus John Makdessi are must watches. Both were pure striking battles and awesome for different reasons.

From the get go Andrei Arlovski and Travis Browne waded into each other with massive power shots. Arlovski landed first and looked to have Browne out only to get clipped on the chin and dropped himself. The Russian rallied back to resume the beating and ultimately forced the referee to save Browne from being KO’d outright towards the end of the first round.

Cerrone put on a striking clinic against the Canadian Makdessi who was stepping in on short notice. Only Makdessi knows whether it was an elbow, a fist a knee or a kick that bust his jaw. With the clock winding down on the second round Makdessi backed off to call a ‘time out’ and signal to the referee he was done.

All credit to Makdessi for accepting the seriousness of his plight and not trying to fight on and risk more serious injury.

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