Everyone who follows the UFC is excited about Saturday night's Jon Jones-Rampage Jackson fight, but the UFC's marketing efforts are mostly about attracting the many millions of Americans who have never heard of Jones or Jackson. That's why the UFC gets so excited about putting fighters on shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live, and that's why Jones and Jackson's appearance on the Kimmel show Monday night was so effective.
Jones and Jackson sold their UFC 135 main event on a level that someone who's never bought a pay-per-view could appreciate: Kimmel started their interview by asking them if they liked each other, Jones gave a one word answer ("no") and it went from there.
There are a lot of easy-to-sell storylines on the Jones-Jackson fight, with Jones playing the role of the All-American nice guy and Jackson as the tough dude from the wrong side of the tracks. Whether that's actually an accurate portrayal of those two is a separate question, but that's an easy way to sell the fight to a new audience, and both fighters more or less conformed to those roles.
But at the same time, Jones is coming across as edgier than we've seen before in recent appearances, like Jackson is genuinely getting under his skin. And even though Jackson is the "bad guy" in this pairing, he has a natural feel for how to play an audience, and he showed off a good sense of humor on the Kimmel show.
Another angle the UFC likes to see played up is that Jones is the young upstart in MMA, while Jackson is the aging veteran who wants the belt back. Jackson was sure to mention that he plans on teaching the youngster a lesson.
"This kid ain't really fought nobody and he's already talking down to me," Jackson said of Jones. "He's a snot-nosed kid."
Jones got off what I thought was the best line of the interview when he described his style and Jackson's as "Spiderman vs. Frankenstein." That sounds like some Hollywood studio executive's idea for a wacky superhero movie, but it also sounds like something I'd like to watch. I have a feeling a lot of Kimmel viewers were thinking the same thing about Bones vs. Rampage.
(Editor's note: Watch the second part of Kimmel interview below.)