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UFC Newcomer Jon Jones Is Humble, Focused, Unafraid

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with new UFC signee Jon Jones (6-0), and the unbeaten 205lb. prospect had plenty to say about his future, and more importantly his upcoming fight with Andre Gusmao at UFC 87.

When asked about his start in the sport of MMA, Jones said “I was a pretty serious wrestler in high school and I won the State Championship my senior year. Then I went off to college and won the Junior College National Championship (JUCO) in 2006, from there I had a full scholarship to wrestle at Iowa State, and then I decided I wanted to go into MMA.”

Since then he’s become the USKBA light-heavyweight champion and has gone undefeated in MMA while catching the eye of the biggest MMA organization in the world.

Jones was recently signed to a four-fight deal with the UFC, and his first test comes in under two weeks when he faces the IFL’s unbeaten Andre Gusmao (5-0) on the undercard of the event.

“I’m really stoked about the situation” said Jones of his fight with Gusmao. “I found out maybe a week after my last fight which was July 13th (a second round TKO win over Moyses Gabin), I know this is a big opportunity for me and I’m just trying to keep my head on straight.”

About his opponent Andre Gusmao, Jones had this to say, “I saw some of his videos on YouTube and he seems like a really athletic guy. He does capoiera and I know he’s trained by Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I think this is a good fight for me. He’s a stand-up fighter and has good grappling, I consider myself a stand-up fighter and I’m a really good wrestler. I’m definitely training for submission defenses and there’s not much on the ground that I wouldn’t expect from a Gracie trained brown belt. I know he’s won his fights by TKO, but I don’t really think he has a lot of KO power, but I’m not going to take anything away from him and I definitely respect him as an opponent.”

On a possible game plan against Gusmao, Jones quipped, “I don’t really come up with a game plan, I just work on making myself the best fighter I can be for that night and working from where my strengths are at. A perfect night for me would be knocking him out in the first round.”

I had the pleasure of seeing Jones fight on June 20th in Wilmington, Mass. for Joe Cavallaro’s World Championship Fighting promotion, and he excited the crowd with his 36-second knockout of opponent Parker Porter. Granted, there’s a world of difference between Porter and Gusmao, but if Jones comes out as dangerous against Gusmao as he was that night in Wilmington, the Brazilian might be in for a long night.

In his corner at UFC 87 will be “Team Bombsquad” Coach Ryan Ciotoli, as well as jiu-jitsu coach Matt Zaccarias, and his boxing coach Alex Stewart, who has worked with such pugilists as Ray Mercer and Floyd Patterson.

“Team Bombsquad” has had a lot of excitement coming out of their camp lately, with not only the signing of Jones, but also teammate John Franchi signing with the WEC, and Mike Massenzio has also been rumored to have signed with the UFC. I asked Jones about “Team Bombsquad” and he had this say, “We’re really happy here at Bombsquad. We’re a gym that’s based in wrestling, and I honestly feel that wrestling is the number one sport you can be a part of to train for MMA. We all have a different attitude for ourselves. Wrestlers definitely work harder than a lot of other athletes. Franchi works really hard and he’s one of the most well-rounded fighters I’ve ever seen. His hard work in the gym is really contagious. We see him as a great example of how to work to get where you want to be, and now that he’s signed by the WEC, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to do great things.”

Although an opportunity like this may inflate the ego of a young fighter such as Jones, he has remained grounded in reality and thankful for the amazing opportunity he has in this fight.

“I’m really focused and really humble throughout this whole experience, I’m really hungry to learn as much as I can and I’m looking forward to doing big things in the sport. I just know I’m going to have to work really hard to get where I want to be and I definitely have big dreams of being the #1 fighter in the world, but for right now my focus is this fight, and we’ll worry about the rest when the time comes.”

I asked Jones if there was anyone he thought he would match-up well with in the UFC’s stacked 205lb. division and if there was anyone he’d enjoy getting an opportunity to fight. Jones let me know with no uncertainty that his crosshairs are aimed directly at Gusmao for the moment. “Definitely not, I’m taking it one match at a time. I understand that I’m a young fighter (Jones turned 21 on July 19) so I’ve got lots of time to grow and lots of techniques to learn. I am taught to feel confident and never to fear any man, but at the same time I know that I’ve still got a lot of learning to do, but if I was offered a fight with a top ten guy right now would I take it?…Absolutely!”

Tune into UFC 87 on Saturday August 9th and you may get to see Jones battle the very dangerous Andre Gusmao on the undercard if time permits the bout to be aired. In the mean time, keep it locked right here on Fightline.