In the wake of Overeem’s high epitestosterone results at the UFC 146 press conference fans and media alike have sought his replacement in even the most unlikely of places. Jones’ looming title fight with Rashad Evans at UFC 145 granted no reprieve from what can only be characterized as a ludicrous question: would he fight Junior Dos Santos at UFC 146?
Jones response follows (transcribed by MMA Mania):
"You know, it's hard to even say because of two factors: First, it would be disrespectful of me to just look past Rashad completely like, 'Oh, this fight's already done.' Rashad is going to be a huge test and I'm excited for this great challenge. And you know, honestly, it is something I would totally entertain. But at the same time, I have so much respect for Junior dos Santos. He's such a cool dude, you know what I mean? He's just such a cool dude. Fighting him is just like... Me and him, he treated me like his brother when we were in Brazil together. We did a lot of fun stuff in Brazil. He's just a cool dude. Challenging him out of nowhere would be hitting him upside the head like, 'Where did Jones come from? Why does Jones want to fight me?' I'm not saying he's scared of me, by any means, I'm sure he's not. If it was somebody else, I would definitely go for it. But it's Junior. I don't know, I'm not even a heavyweight so to pick a fight with Junior doesn't really make sense to me. There's a lot of work to be done in the light heavyweight division."
Even as Jones’ response causes a stir in message boards and comment sections across the MMA Newsphere, I am drawn to the nuance and measure Jon displayed which can rarely be found in previous instances requiring tact and grace.
In his initial admittance toward entertaining the fight Jon Jones embodies the "fighting spirit" that’s expected of fighters, and to a greater degree champions. To fully appreciate the criticism Jon Jones averted one needs to look no further than the usually media savvy Georges St. Pierre who publicly dilly dallies around the prospect of fighting Anderson Silva. A conscientious fan simply can’t fault Georges for feeling hesitant to fight up a weight class e, but the average fan is proven to be remarkably unconscientious indeed.
Then by elaborating on his hesitation to take the fight Jones guards himself against future allegations of insincere training should he lose or perform poorly against Rashad. This is a tricky line to traipse as Jones’ most recent opponent Lyoto Machida can attest to. In the height of the Machida Era few fans gave pause to Lyoto’s grand scheming involving several title defenses and an eventual move to heavyweight for super fights with the likes of Brock Lesnar. Perhaps if Machida had crafted his narrative more artfully "The Machida Era" would not be a derisive joke amongst MMA fans wary against counting their chickens before they hatch.
In addition to reaffirming his commitment to current engagements Jon Jones attempts to repair his damaged persona by deflecting a fight with Junior on the basis of friendship. Realistically the fall out of the yearlong feud with Rashad Evans may take months or even years to fade from relevance however a consistent message of loyalty to team mates and friends can only expedite his cause.
In his prodigious career Jon Jones has unfalteringly improved from a green prospect to belt holder with premature whispers of Ali-like talent. During that time the growth of an awkward and talented young man into a confident and mature adult has been lost amidst a series of stunning suplexes and spinning elbows. At the age of 24 Jon Jones has limitless potential to grow both as a person and a fighter and I count myself as lucky to be along for the ride.