Jon Jones takes lessons of Anderson Silva's loss into next title defense: 'It's a reality check'

UFC

Jon Jones was there. He saw it with his own eyes, although he needed to watch it again from his couch to process exactly what had happened. Anderson Silva had lost, and at least partly as a result of his own actions. For a long time, Silva has been the one that Jones looked at as an example. After all, Silva had all the UFC records that mattered. Longest win streak, longest title reign, most highlight-reel moments. G.O.A.T. title. All the things Jones wanted.

Those remain targets, but Silva? Well, he has suddenly gone from example to cautionary tale. That's how fast the sport changes, and the fate of an individual can change with it.

On Tuesday, less than 72 hours after witnessing history, Jones was in Toronto to publicize his next title defense, against Alexander Gustafsson on Sept. 21. Not surprisingly, he is a heavy favorite to retain the belt, which would break a tie with Tito Ortiz for most successful defenses of the light-heavyweight championship.

And Jones volunteered that the scene at UFC 162 reminded him of what could be so swiftly taken away at UFC 165.

"It actually motivates me a lot to watch somebody who I look up to like that lose," he said. "It's a reality check. I try to keep my ego in check when it comes to the fight game, and watching Anderson lose like that … First of all, it's something I would never do, put my hands down like that and try to fight my opponent that way. But watching Chris Weidman’s dream come true, I have to make sure that I continue to be a dream crusher. So it motivated me."

Jones' words actually came unprompted, as he followed up a query to Gustafsson about whether seeing Silva lose filled him with new confidence that a pound-for-pound great could be felled.

Jones expanded on his feelings regarding Silva's loss minutes later, when he was asked to comment on Silva's tactics in the bout.

"I think that Anderson Silva is a magnificent fighter," he said. "I think he has extraordinary gifts. I think he's gotten to the point where he really believes in his gifts, and he's comfortable with gift and he abused his gift. He disrespected the gift by disrespecting his opponent. Martial arts are traditionally a sport that's based around honor and integrity and treating people with respect, and he somehow lost sight of that, and he paid the ultimate price for it.

"I’m not over the Anderson Silva hype train," he continued. "I know exactly where he’s at. You can tell where he's at by how he was fighting. He was fighting at a masterful level. I think he just got disrespectful and the war gods made him pay for it. But he's still the great Anderson Silva in my book."

Lesson learned, Jones looks forward.

But first, another superlative. As a result of Silva's loss, Jones was elevated to the world's No. 1 pound-for-pound slot by many of the sport's observers. Among those: the official UFC fighter rankings as well as promotion president Dana White.

It is a lofty spot for anyone, let alone someone who is just 25 years old and quite possibly still has his best days ahead.

Yet for Jones, it's a spot that has yet to be earned in any tangible sense.

"It means a lot to me but at this point it doesn't really feel real," he said. "My goal is definitely to become the No. 1 fighter to ever do it. To become No. 1 because Anderson lost doesn't make me feel like I accomplished anything. So I’m going to continue to work extremely hard to become the No. 1 light-heavyweight to ever play this sport, to eventually creep up on some things Anderson Silva has done in his career. It doesn't really do too much for me. It doesn't feel real, it doesn't feel earned. Winning this fight will make me feel a little better about it. Right now my mindset is to keep that position and make it more legit through my actions and through my performances instead of taking the spot like that."

Jones said his toe -- dislocated in his UFC 159 win over Chael Sonnen -- is almost healed, and that he wears a boxing boot while training to ensure no setbacks.

The focus on standup is a priority for Jones, who said he fully plans on matching or exceeding Gustafsson in that department, even though it's considered the challenger's forte. Even after his weekend reality check, he still wants to prove something just for the sake of silencing his few remaining critics who say his size and length are unfair advantages.

"I definitely would like to prove to people that my size isn’t the reason why I've made it this far, it’s my mental approach to the game," he said. "I'll definitely try to prove to people that I can kickbox with Alex. I’ve kickboxed with Lyoto Machida, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, "Shogun" Rua. I’ve fought a lot of great guys on the feet and I don't feel inferior in any category. I know the safest places I can fight and what will be a little bit more for the fans and for my own personal ego. But it’s all there. I see what I'm up against pretty clearly as far as strengths and weaknesses.
I’m sure I’ll try to attack his strengths and his weaknesses like I do with every opponent."

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