Reading through a comment section for a really good and well thought out article explaining why Rashad Evans is more Muhammad Ali than Jon Jones I started thinking to myself: What makes two mma fighters more comparable to Muhammad Ali than two of the most popular and transcendent boxers of today: Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather? I think in the midst of arguing whether or not Jon Jones is the next Ali or not, I realized that neither Jon Jones nor Rashad Evans or any mixed martial artists can be compared to Muhammad Ali or any all time great boxer ahead of any one current pound for pound star in boxing today.
Seriously what makes those two more deserving of the Ali comparison than Manny Pacquiao who is more popular than every star fighter currently marketed and employed by the UFC combined. Manny Pacquiao is the only fighter of either sport whose name and face is known around the world. He's the one true global figure who can be placed alongside Ali in terms of his cultural, political, and social influence throughout the world. I'm hard pressed to find any Buddhist monks or third world residents who know the name "Jon Jones"; but there are plenty who know the name of Manny Pacquiao.
Coming in a close second is Floyd Mayweather who while he may not have the same level of global recognition of a Manny Pacquiao there's no doubt Floyd Mayweather adopted some of the same controversial views that made Ali the first real double edged sword athlete. Floyd however might say things and believe certain things in order to push his brand, although at the end of the day wasn't Ali merely a brand attached to a great fighter who created the "Ali" brand himself?
When Floyd Mayweather speaks, his comments are carried by every mainstream outlet from all areas of mainstream media. His comments about Jeremy Lin were the topic of discussion everywhere from political talk radio to ESPN. We can debate the intent and the sincerity of his outbursts but there's no debating the relevancy of what he says and does. and another thing that stands out when you talk about Floyd Mayweather, not since Muhammad Ali have we had such a strong and unified show of support for a fighter from the black community the way black folks supporter and defend every action and every word good or bad that Floyd says or does. It's to the point now where if you're black and you root against Floyd you're seen as an Uncle Tom or a traitor to your race. The same way black people feel about Floyd is the same way they felt about Ali.
Jon Jones is that regard is nothing like Ali or Floyd. Perhaps it's the way he talks, his hellbent desire to be the friendly neighborhood mma fighter, I couldn't tell you in just a few sentences but there's a reason why the black community has not caught on to the Jon Jones era. There's just not that same level of love shown to Jon like there is for Floyd. The love shown to Floyd among black Americans is almost cult like. The lockstep defense he receives is I'm telling you as a 16 year boxing fan and student of the sport you criticize Floyd around a group of black people and you might not make it out alive, or at least you'll go in black and leave a white guy name Steve from Omaha.
But just focus on the mma world. Take Rampage for example. Why is there so much more support from the black community for Rampage than there is for Jon Jones? Jones is a young, intelligent, marketable dominant champion is his prime, what's not to support? Well, it's the same reason Lennox Lewis had little support from African Americans despite being miles better than Mike Tyson who had a monopoly on support of the black community. It wasn't Lewis' accent or his British and Jamaican roots, but his persona compared to Tyson's persona and public demeanor.
So when it all boils down you can't compare Jones to Ali, or Tyson, or even Mayweather. The closest comparison for Jon Jones might very well be Lennox Lewis, a guy who never caught on and was largely debatable among fans because of his personality and his disconnected with black boxing fans, especially in America. But like Lewis, Jones happens to be the one guy who could beat every fighter in his era and still find it difficult to get the proper respect he deserves. Lennox Lewis was the greatest heavyweight of his generation and the first and last of his generation to beat Vitali Klitschko. Unfortunately however no one knew it at the time nor did they really care; the same thing might happen to Jon Jones. He could wipe out an entire generation of fighters of equal accomplishment and because he's such a debatable figure in terms of his personality and "Take him or leave him" appeal to fans, no one will rush to give him the credit he would have earned.