After UFC president Dana White announced on Thursday that Jon Jones would defend his light heavyweight title against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 on Sept. 21 in Toronto, MMAFighting.com spoke to Jones about the fight, his injured toe, meeting Fedor Emelianenko and more.
Below is a transcript of that conversation.
Ariel Helwani: First off, how is your toe feeling?
Jon Jones: My toe is doing really well. Right now, I'm going to ease into some boxing and some wrestling with Cornell University, maybe try to get in at Ithaca College too, and start doing sports where I use a boot or a shoe, like a wrestling shoe or a boxing boot, to do some weightlifting, get my body fat down and get ready to improve my game.
What exactly happened to the toe when you injured it?
I chopped some of the bone on the right side of the left toe and tore ligaments on the left side of the toe. Now, I have to tape my big toe to the toe next to it, and as long as I can do that for about four more weeks, I'll be fine. I just can't put the toe in any quirky positions, like I would if I was doing jiu-jitsu, so that it doesn't go the opposite way again.
I heard you wanted to fight in October. Why are you fighting in September?
I was hoping for October, but Dana asked me to do September, so I thought I would be a team player and try to help the UFC out with their scheduling. Having me so close to Toronto, I thought it would make sense for the company, so I took the fight. At the same time, I don't feel rushed at all, so it worked out for the both of us.
Originally, were you trying to return in August?
No, I was not trying to fight in August. They wanted me to fight in August for the first FOX Sports 1 card, but I just thought that would be a bad idea. It was a great opportunity. I definitely want to fight on free television for the fans. I realize there's a lot of people out there that aren't in a position to buy pay-per-view. So, I would be honored to fight for the fans on free television, and I was going to jump at the opportunity, but I took a few steps back and really evaluated whether that would be a smart idea or not and realized that I should do that another time.
After Lyoto Machida beat Dan Henderson in February, he was told he would be next to fight you, so why are you fighting Gustafsson instead?
I'm really not sure. That was Dana White's call.
Didn't you tell the UFC that Gustafsson presented a new challenge for you since you beat Machida at UFC 140?
Yeah, that definitely happened. I beat Lyoto already. Ultimately, it was Dana's decision to match me up with Gustafsson and not Machida, but I did mention to Dana that I had already defeated Lyoto, and the UFC 140 pay-per-view numbers were pretty terrible. If you have a perfectly healthy, young contender who is on a rampage, why not keep new opponents, new excitement for the fans?
You wrote on Twitter that you think this will be your toughest fight. Why?
I don't think he will be my toughest fight, but I need to have that psychology. I realize that he is a young man who is close to realizing a dream. You know, a lot of the guys I have fought have already had title shots before, but this is his very first title shot. I'm sure he's going to be extremely motivated.
He's been tweeting you some interesting stuff. One might call it trash-talk. What do you make of that?
I don't think he's trash-talking at all. I think he's trying to take a page out of Chael's book and start a little controversy so he can get this title shot, and it worked. It didn't surprise me. I think he pulleda smart move, and I kinda played along with him.
Why not get that fight over with? He's a young guy, and I see myself fighting him throughout our careers, so why not get him past me? Shut up some more critics. I'm giving him exactly what he wants.
Will you move up to heavyweight if you beat Gustafsson?
I don't know. I think it opens a lot of doors for some exciting, funky things to happen.
Speaking of Chael, did you see what he said on "UFC Tonight" about him and Dan Henderson trying to set you up last year to fight him at UFC 151?
Yeah, that was funny.
But on Thursday both Dana White and Dan Henderson said he was lying, so who do you believe?
Hmm. I think I'm going to believe them.
At the end of the day, I'm over the whole situation. I came out in a pretty solid position. Until this day, I still apologize to the people who lost money in the situation, but I think people look back and realize that was a smart decision to make. I won the fight, beat Chael Sonnen up pretty convincingly, got to do "The Ultimate Fighter" ... A lot of good things, for me personally, came out of the whole UFC 151 situation.
What was it like meeting Fedor Emelianenko in Russia?
Aw, meeting Fedor was awesome. He was so soft-spoken. We talked about training together. I let him know how big of a fan I was of him. I told him if there was ever anything I could do to support any causes of his, I would be honored. Basically, I was just being a groupie for 15 minutes. It was pretty cool. He was so respectful and showed a lot of respect back at me. It was a little bromance for a bit.
You talked about training together?
Yeah. He just told me to let him know when I wanted to come to Russia to spend some time and he would make sure it would happen.
Why don't you invite him to New Mexico?
That would be cool, too. You never know.
By the way, who do you think will win between Evans and Henderson this Saturday night?
I got Rashad winning. If he gets Henderson on his back, the fight is pretty much over