At the UFC 135 press-conference on July 19, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones and his upcoming opponent, former division king Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, gave the world a taste of the back-and-forth that has fans circling their calendars for September 24. Only this time, instead of exchanging punches, kicks, and German suplexes, the fighters stuck to their words while UFC President Dana White watched on to moderate.
While Jones is known throughout the MMA world as being virtually indestructible at this point in his career, mangling his opponents with slams, spinning kicks and elbows, and a ground-and-pound game that ranks among the best in the history of the sport, the often soft-spoken champion took some licks from the veteran challenger over the mic.
In the presser, after Jones cited Rampage’s striking game as being more one-dimensional than that of Jones’ prior opponent, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rampage’s response drew cheers from the crowd.
“Well I just have to say, straight up, I respect you,” said Jackson. “I do think you’re the future of MMA. Straight up. Keeping it real. But you fought Shogun when he was rusty as hell. He was off an injury. You know what I’m saying. [Rua] hadn’t fought for a year. He had like two knee surgeries.”
The champion said there will always be excuses, with Jackson promising Jones will be the one needing excuses after the pair clash for the title in Denver.
For the icing on the cake, both men stood for the customary ‘stare down’ between fighters. When Jones employed his usual tactic of looking directly past his opponent, Rampage turned and leaned against the young champion’s chest, grinning ear to ear.
Afterwards, in an interview for Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan in Denver, when asked about animosity between the fighters, while Jones said he did not hate his opponent, the champion admitted that Jackson had tested his patience with his press-conference mischief.
“Well, you know what? Rampage did turn his back on me at the press conference earlier. Kind of pissed me off,” said Jones (props to MMAMania for the transcription). “So I might do a little extra in the fight because of that.”
Jackson responded. “This guy, his stare downs, I’ve never seen a stare down like this before in my life. He’s staring at your feet. That’s not no stare down, so I turned by back.”
“Oh, I am outraged. I’m outraged and you guys will see that,” Jones said with a smile.
Rampage went on to mock Jones for his spandex and amateur wrestling, while Jones continued to rib Jackson for his lack of versatility in the striking game, as well as for Jackson’s lack of hunger. Rampage said Jones’ manager thought the A-Team remake was a bad movie. Jones talked up Royce Gracie’s impact on the sport. Rampage said during the interview saying Jones’ stare down was not a ‘man’s stare down.’
Toward the interview’s end, Jones took a parting shot. “Hey, I was wondering if you guys had Steven Seagal’s number. I thought since I’m going to be fighting an actor, I might as well fight a real one.”
Rampage answered with, “I guarantee you, on September 24, [Jon] is going to choke. He’s going to choke. He’s not going to defend his belt because he’s going to be lying out… I don’t really even watch your fights. I know your weakness, though. The hair on it right now, that chin. Ain’t nobody ever hit you. I’m a fighter, homie. I don’t care how you fight. You’re real cocky. You’re going to be put in your place.”
This mindset is new for the champion, who typically looks at fights just as obstacles to clear on his path to achieving his goals. It was obvious Jackson had him reeling on the mic, but what fans will wonder is whether or not the mind games will affect the new champion come fight night.
What ultimately will happen is anyone’s guess, but the level of motivation for Jon “Bones” Jones has gone from preserving his title reign and aura of invincibility, to making Rampage pay for showing him up in front of the city of Denver. Conversely, Quinton will look to lay the belt back around his own waist after having dropped the strap to Forrest Griffin three years ago in a hard-contested decision loss. In a contrast of styles, the fight should be in no shortage of intensity or explosiveness when the pair headline UFC 135: Jones vs Rampage on September 24, 2011, at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.