Jon Jones has all the talent and athletic ability in the world; it took him to the UFC light heavyweight championship less than three years after his pro debut. But for all his physical maturity, one of the biggest criticisms leveled against Jon is that he is not as mature mentally as he is physically. This came shining through yet again when doing an interview with the popular sports blog With Leather.
Josh Zerkle asked Jon what the one thing he would change about the sport is and he gave one of the most obnoxious and self-important answers possible:
JONES: It's a silly one. I would get rid of the replica belts.
Like the ones they sell at the events?
JONES: Yeah. I hate it when people come up to me with a belt that looks exactly like mine and they ask me to sign it. I worked three times a day for three years to get this [light heavyweight championship] belt, and now this guy asking me for an autograph has one just like it. Are you serious? I mean it's not as heavy, but it looks just the same.
I like that. I don't think it's silly at all.
JONES: I never sign those belts.
Unless a fan is walking up to Jon and claiming that he also "earned" his replica belt, it's such an extremely petty thing for a fighter to care about.
For a sport where everyone takes such pride in the accessibility of its athletes, this is an answer that is below what I'd expect from event he most jaded of "mainstream" sports stars.
I don't recall ever hearing an established NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. star refuse to sign a jersey because they'd worked since they were little kids to play ball at the highest level. They touch in the interview a little on the fact that there's no merchandising rights for the fighters, but for Jones to act like a fan wanting his autograph on a piece of memorabilia should suffer because MMA agents have never had the strength (or ability) to better pursue the merchandising and licensing issue is a rather weak move on his part.
Then, a more experienced and mature Urijah Faber was asked the same question. His answer:
FABER: I'd like to see, and I'm on the positive side of this, I'd like to see the less marketable guys taken care of. That's one thing. Another thing is the judging. It's terrible. I think there needs to be a serious call to action to make sure these judges know what the hell they're talking about. It's unfortunate when you got a guy who has spent his whole life to getting good at all these things not getting credit for what he's doing in the cage. Striking, wrestling...I don't think the average judge knows what they're doing.
The answer would be a judging commission, get them licensed, make them go through a process. Maybe they're fighters or coaches in the sport before they can be a judge.
Looking out for other fighters and the long-term good of the sport vs. being upset that a fan wants your autograph on a fake belt.
Smooth move, Jon.