Jon Jones has seemingly lost control of himself and his public image in his efforts to promote his UFC 178 title fight with Daniel Cormier. Either that or he's made the dreaded "full heel turn" that those who hate to talk about fight promotion in the terms of sports entertainment hate so much.
His comments to Sherdog, indicate that he's more self-aware about what's going on than you might think from his punch-throwing at the presser followed by feral bellowing followed by his "hot mic" death threats to Cormier.
When asked if his negative feelings toward Cormier were genuine, Jones replied "Yeah, they're genuine. I'm not going to say that I hate him. I don't hate him. It's not even that I don't like him. It's just that I'm a fierce competitor. I'm a fierce competitor and he's a fierce competitor, and we both know what's ahead of us and that's real competition, good competition. You need to take on a certain attitude to be able to meet that challenge and to do your best, so we've both got our game faces on, and, unfortunately, those game faces are ugly."
There's no doubt that prize fighting is an ugly, brutal business. That's why we cling so tightly to talk of the noble tradition of martial arts, honor, mutual respect, etc etc.
And don't get me wrong, we have to do that. Otherwise the negative emotions unleashed in the cage would spill over and we would lose control of the sport.
Another ugly reality of all this is that the less controlled and restrained fighters are, the more fans are interested in their fights.
Take it from someone who knows from marketing fights with vitriol, Tito Ortiz. While Ortiz' most relevant sporting bouts came against Wanderlei Silva and Frank Shamrock, his biggest money makers were bouts of less relevance but more vehemenence against a fading Ken Shamrock (we'll leave his fights with Chuck Liddell out of the equation since they were both heated AND relevant). Tito was on ESPN and had this to say.
"It looked real to me. A fight is a fight," said Tito. "If you want to get in someone's head, that's the best way to do it. Cormier stood his ground. I would have done the same thing, both ways, as Jones or Cormier. What we do is real. It's real competition and we're fighting for our lives pretty much. We're trying to hurt each other. You get two alpha males that want to be the best in the world and there you go. I was really surprised it happened, though. This usually doesn't happen.
"At the end of the day, I think it's good for the sport," said Tito. "That's just me. This goes back to Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. This goes back to me and Ken Shamrock. Me and Chuck Liddell. People tune in for this because they want to watch it. Everybody has an opinion. Why did Jones react like that? Is he afraid and overcompensated for it? This probably adds about 500,000 pay-per-view buys. The fight without this would have sold maybe 500,000. It will hit the 1 million mark now."
Here's hoping that Jones and Cormier can continue to walk the fine line between compelling spectacle and legalized, regulated sporting violence until they resolve their conflict in the cage at UFC 178 on September 27.