The closer this fight gets the more it feels like an event. This fight has taken the MMA world by storm and Zuffa has done a fantastic job of marketing it. I'm sure we're all familiar with the feel of an "event" versus just a fight. It's the same feel I always got before Brock Lesnar fights and before Mayweather or Pacquiao fights. This fight is getting tons of attention and much of the attention is going towards Jon Jones.
Something I usually do before every fight is complain about ESPN not covering it. They pretended like UFC 144 didn't even exist! No highlight, no SC interview, and I don't even think they had an MMA Live episode for it. Last night I was shocked when ESPN mentioned it on SportsCenter and even showed a quick montage hyping the fight talking it up as, "The Most Hyped MMA Fight of All Time" while showing the weigh-ins. They even mentioned it in the opening of the show(!) and used the clip of Jon saying he couldn't wait to knock out Rashad. SportsNation also had an entire segment dedicated to comparing Jon Jones moments to moments in playoff hockey.
Outside of ESPN they were also on Inside the NBA and LeBron James also gave a shout out to Jon Jones on Twitter(and his 4.5 million followers). Shaq and Charles Barkley are big MMA fans so they did a good job of talking up the event. Even outside of the UFC I've run into this fight. My favorite sport is football and draft time is coming. I was checking out some info on Chandler Jones(I was hoping he'd fall to the Falcons) and even with him Jon Jones was getting mentioned by some big time media outlets.
The buzz for this fight has emanated outside of our little bubble and an impressive victory here could lead to Jon Jones catching on with the non-MMA sports fan. Jon has been marketing himself for years(which is part of the "fake" stuff IMO) and Zuffa has clearly bet on this horse, and this seems to be the opportunity they both were waiting for. If you're a sports fan then you know that people can just "blow up" at times. If you're an MMA fan you can also remember how you felt the first time you watched Jon Jones fight. I was still a fairly new MMA fan at the time and a friend of mine told me to pay special attention for him. My first experience with him was the Matt Hamill fight and he almost immediately became my favorite fighter. I think something like this can happen with people who are "checking him out" too.
The last time the UFC got so clearly behind a fighter he ended up on Rampage's highlight reel. In addition to the backing of his employees he likely also has a Nike deal on the line and is carrying a sold out event. So it is on Jon to deliver. If he does we could be on the precipice of Jon being a star. If he lives up to the hype then he could really blow up.