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Coach: Jon Jones’ illegal knee strike at UFC 235 was ‘more of a timing thing’

Striking coach Brandon Gibson defends the illegal knee strike that Jon Jones threw at Anthony Smith at UFC 235.

UFC 235’s main event title fight between Jon Jones and Anthony Smith came to a brief halt in the fourth round when the defending champion threw an illegal knee strike. He was docked two points for it but the fight continued. According to Jones, he had flashbacks of his fight with Matt Hamill in 2009, where he lost via disqualification, the only defeat in his record.

Smith chose to fight on, which earned him praises and validation for his “Lionheart” nickname. But as for what happened at that moment, Jones’ striking coach Brandon Gibson explained it on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour.

“We wanted the finish,” Gibson said (via MMA Fighting). “I thought Jon would put him away, I was thinking by the third round. The fourth round we really saw Jon turn it up and I feel bad about the knee. A split-second later or one state line over, that probably would have been a fight ender.

“I feel bad about it. I’m really, really happy that Anthony was able to get up and continue from that. I think it shows why he has that ‘Lionheart’ moniker.”

Gibson went on to clarify that they did adhere to the Commission’s rules and pre-fight instructions given to them. But like how it happened with Greg Hardy in January, Jones’ knee strike was attributed to bad timing.

“We try to be as [up-to-date as] we can and the referees usually do a pretty good job breaking it down in the locker room on where’s the hand and where does the weight need to be in this state,” Gibson said. “What is ‘three points’ in this state? Is it fingertips, is it palms, is it fists? I don’t know if we went over that in as detail as we should, I was under the understanding that Jon couldn’t knee.

“I think Jon was just waiting for that millisecond, Anthony’s trying to play that up-and-down game right there, and Jon knew there was short time left in the round and I think he was just trying to time it for the second that Anthony lifted up that hand. And there’s some pictures where it looks really damn close,” he added.

“It was more of a timing thing than a state and commission thing.”

After Saturday night, Jones’ list of challengers continues to grow. UFC president Dana White already named Thiago Santos as his preferred next opponent for “Bones”, while Anthony “Rumble” Johnson already expressed his intent to come out of retirement and make a fight happen at heavyweight.