For all the dramatics leading up to his latest booking, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones sounds relieved to finally have a date for his rematch with Alexander Gustafsson. Jones' hesitation to sign the bout agreement made him a target of UFC president Dana White, who framed the champion's reluctance as turning his back on the fans.
"As soon as [Jones] starts to build some steam and starts to become the star that you think he can be, he comes out and doesn't want to fight somebody," White said earlier this month. The sport's pound-for-pound best is remaining fairly tight-lipped about how the deal came together, but you get the sense Jones would love to say more.
"That's funny," Jones told ESPN's MMA Live. "I think it was handled the way it had to be. The UFC had to do their certain strategies and things to get the fight done and I had to do my own strategy to get the fight agreed upon. We ultimately came up with something that worked for both of us. Now the fans get what they wanted, which is most important.
"I'm always learning. Every scenario that I've faced in my career is educational for me and I just take it all in and try to apply it for the future."
Now booked to headline opposite Gustafsson Sept. 27 at UFC 178, Jones says he won't be taking the Swede lightly this time around. You might not guess it by the scorecards, but the pair's first meeting at UFC 165 in September was anything but clear-cut. Jones would go on to win a unanimous decision, but he was tested from the onset.
"I realized right away," said Jones. "[Gustafsson] took me down right away in the first round, scoring on me more than I've ever been scored on, right in the first round. Yea, I knew it was going to be a tough fight right away.
"My biggest takeaway is just to train harder than I did last time. Give it my full undivided attention and I believe if I simply do that everything's going to work out."
"In some ways that Gustafsson fight was my strongest showing," said Jones. "To finish that fight the way I finished it and display the heart that I did to remain being the champion, to beat Tito Ortiz' [most consecutive UFC light heavyweight title defenses] record that very same night. I would give that [fight] one of my top showings."
As for making it eight-straight title defenses, Jones is hoping more focus in preparation will make his rematch with Gustafsson a shadow of their first bout.
"What needs to go right is I need to have a great camp," said Jones. "I need to have a great camp. I need to remain extremely focused and that's it, really. Just come in prepared and going out there and doing what I do best. Play the game. Having fun.
"A successful showing for me is just for me to go out there and dominate. I've been able to dominate everyone I've ever faced except for Gustafsson in that first fight and success for me is to not only win this fight, but to dominate it."
Jon Jones defends his light heavyweight title to Alexander Gustafsson Sept. 27 at UFC 178 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Brawlin' strippers. Invicta FC featherweight Ediane Gomes believes the UFC is interested in finding women with a particular set of skills. "The (female) fighters in the UFC are more worried about showing their a**es than actually fighting."
'Honest and upfront.' Jon Jones explains how Chael Sonnen 'almost gained an exception' for fighters who test positive for performance enhancing drugs. "I really admired him being vulnerable and telling the world about the situation with his wife and things like that."
Dana White talks Coker taking over Bellator, PED's 'ruining' Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva and more.
Anderson Silva hits the pads and talks recovery.
No one wants to fight Sara McMann.
Fighting in Brazil sounds fun.
You might not be as badass as you think.
Rick Glenn (@Gladiatorglenn) June 22, 2014
We did...another VICTORY! I want to thank everyone who tuned in for their support. I have the best... http://t.co/nc1z5pMTwD— Jessica Aguilar (@jagatt) June 22, 2014
Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) June 22, 2014
It's a celebration.
Joseph Benavidez (@JoeJitsu) June 22, 2014
So much going on here.
Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) June 22, 2014
Just landed in Hong Kong. In a car with none other than my opponent lol. Nice guy, but this is gonna... http://t.co/QD15SxpLJE— michael (@bisping) June 23, 2014
@MieshaTate I don't need another doppleganger name like that in my life. ;-)— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) June 23, 2014
Now Donatello want some! http://t.co/JSIK401UST— Quinton Jackson (@Rampage4real) June 23, 2014
Announced this weekend (June 20-22 2014)
FANPOST OF THE DAY
Today's Fanpost of the Day comes via tigerlee.
A look at the regional scene of MMA highlighting the bouts of well-known veterans and rising prospects fighting in promotions not named UFC, Bellator, or WSOF.
This week featured notable wins by Kevin Casey and James Moontasri that led to signings by the UFC. One of the biggest fights of the week included a matchup between top 10 female Flyweight fighters Rosi Sexton and Joanna Jedrezejczyk from the stacked (by regional standards) Cage Warriors 69 event.
Joshua Aveles (16-10-1, LW#85) def Joe Condon (11-7, LW#409) by UD5 @ KOTC-Slugfest - Highland, CA
Henry Corrales (10-0, FW#115) def Alejandro Garcia (14-8-0-1, FW#262) by R2 TKO(Dr stop) @ KOTC-Slugfest
Diego Arturo Huerto Jaregui (12-3-2, FW#156) def Denilson Silva (8-9) by R1 SUB @ Fusion FC8 - Lima, Peru
Jiri Prochazka (10-2, LHW#128) def Tomas Penz (11-9) by R1 KO @ GCF28 - Moravia, Czech Rep
Kevin Casey (8-3, MW#92) def Andrew Sanchez (5-1, MW#303) by R1 KO(punches) @ RFA 15 - Culver City, CA
Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @SaintMMA and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.