"I am the greatest. I said that before I even knew I was" - Muhammad Ali
"It's funny, I've been doing some autograph signings and I've been signing lately 'Jon Jones Champion 2011,' almost as if I've spoken it into existence." - Jon Jones
In late January of this year, Bruce Buffer did an interview with MMA Savvy. During the interview, Buffer stated "not only will Jon Jones become champion, he will become the Muhammad Ali of our organization". Buffer was widely criticized for his comment, with the consensus seeming to be that Jones might be the athletic equal of Ali but that he had no chance of ever equaling Ali's social status. And while it is true that many people celebrate Ali more for the trail that he blazed outside the ring, he was only able to become such an icon after he had blazed through many opponents inside the ring.
One of the areas in which Ali shined brightest was in his use of trash talk to bring interest to his fights and to plant seeds of doubt into the heads of the men he would be facing. Ali was probably the greatest trash talker that ever lived. If you ever get bored of the standard UFC fare of "I'm in the best shape of my life and I'm going for the finish", check out some of Ali's best quips here:
You might think that such bold statements would put a lot of unnecessary pressure on Ali come fight time, but he often backed up every word, making the beatings that he put on his foes even more soul crushing.
Before his fight against Vladimir Matyushenko, Jones was very respectful of his opponent and his pre-fight comments were limited to vanilla praises of Matyushenko's game. This was how it had been for Jones his entire (short) career. Any time Jones spoke to the media, he would talk of his faith or his status as a martial artist and not a fighter. He mentioned how humbling his experiences had been and how he would always strive to stay grounded.
Since the calender turned to 2011 though, Jon Jones has had a lot to say. Going into his fight against Ryan Bader, Jones started to raise some eyebrows with his talk. He called out Thiago Silva on twitter after Silva played bongos on Brandon Vera during their UFC 125 bout. He claimed before the fight that he knew Bader better than Bader knew himself. And of course we all know about his unique take on the weigh-in staredown, which he says is a tactic to get into his opponents head. The whole thing seemed to sour some fans on Jones. Either way, he still went out and put a whupping on Bader, earning himself a short notice title shot in the process.
And he has continued to talk. He has claimed he is "too big, too fast and too new school" for Shogun. He has said that he feels like he "has already won the title". And today after the official press conference, he said that Shogun could be "broken physically and mentally - mostly mentally. That is part of what I am going to do to him". It is undoubtedly a new wrinkle in Jones' game, a part of a psychological strategy to gain an upper hand on Rua before the fight starts. A strategy that was best utilized by Muhammad Ali.
After all, if the glove fits, wear it.