Whether that's due to Rua's long injury layoff or Jones' dynamic blend of skills – or, most likely, some comination of the two – it doesn't seem to matter to the two combatants. While they disagree on what the outcome of the fight will be next Saturday night, they both seem convinced that they deserve to be thought of as the underdog.
"The fact that I'm the favorite, I think that's baloney," Jones said on Wednesday's media call. "I think the reason that I'm the favorite is oddsmakers are very smart and they probably think I'm going to lose. I think it's a smart strategy on the oddsmakers' part by making me the favorite. So the fact that I'm the favorite actually means that they think I'm going to lose. That's the way I'm looking at it. I feel as if I'm the underdog. Shogun's beaten lots of big names."
You might think that Rua, who knocked out Lyoto Machida last May to claim the 205-pound belt, would be a little annoyed to see himself listed as the underdog against a 23-year-old with less than three years experience as a professional. Not so, said Rua, who remarked that he completely understood why oddsmakers might be siding with the younger fighter.
"I actually understand that people think he's the favorite for the fight because he has been winning all his fights easily," Rua said via a translator. "I certainly think he is rightfully the favorite for the fight. I understand why people think that and how they view that, and I truly consider myself the underdog."
Of course, just because each fighter considers himself the underdog doesn't mean he expects to lose. Calling the other guy the favorite is a way of taking the pressure off one's own shoulders and hoisting it on to one's opponent's.
But while Jones said he "got a little bit of a headache" the first time he sat down to study tape of Rua in preparation for the fight, he doesn't seem to have any doubts about his own abilities, regardless of whether he agrees with the betting line.
"Now is just my time to go out there and just literally take what belongs to me," said Jones. "I feel it's my belt and I want it and I want to hang on to it and I want to start with Shogun."
Not that he's expecting it to be walk in the park, mind you – injury layoff or not. Jones described Rua as "a legend," and said he was "excited to be pushed for the first time – if I'm pushed, who knows."
Whether that sounds like a man who thinks he deserves to be called an underdog is arguable, but one thing he's not doing, Jones said, is planning on getting an easy road to the title in Rua's first fight back after knee surgery.
"I'm not looking at Shogun as being easy despite his knee injuries and his time off. I know he's a beast. I think with fighters either you're a wolf or you're a sheep. There are a lot of UFC fighters who are sheep, but I know Shogun's a wolf. I believe that I'm a wolf as well, and that's what you guys are going to see."
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