UFC President Dana White says he doesn't want to rush Jon Jones into title contention, saying instead that he'd like to give Jones three more fights over the coming year before giving him a title shot.
When a fan asked White about the possibility of Jones fighting Anderson Silva, White indicated that he'd like to take things a little more slowly than that. UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida will fight Shogun Rua on May 8, and on May 29 Rampage Jackson will fight Rashad Evans. The winners of those two fights are likely to fight each other some time late this year, and White said he could see Jones earning a shot against one of those four in 2011.
"Jon Jones has been the buzz for the last couple days," White said. "Things are blowing up about this guy. He's young. This kid is like 22 years old. He's so young I want to take it -- I want to give him three good fights. Brandon Vera was a big test, he obviously passed with flying colors. I want to give him some other fights like that over the next year, next three fights. Then I say next year, after his next three fights, we start giving him, Rashad, Rampage, Lyoto Machida, Shogun -- whoever the champion is. Maybe he gets a title fight next year."
I firmly believe that Jones is ready to fight the truly elite light heavyweights in MMA right now, but I also think White's answer makes sense. If things go according to plan with the Machida-Shogun winner facing the Rampage-Rashad winner, we're probably a year away from Jones having a chance to fight for the title anyway. So we might as well see Jones fight as often as possible during that year.
At the same time, I'm going to be curious to see who the UFC puts into the Octagon with Jones. A fight with Silva would be a lot of fun, but Silva is the one opponent I could see beating Jones so badly that it stunts his progress. No one wants to see that.
The flip side is that after Jones savaged both Matt Hamill and Brandon Vera, it's almost cruel to put him in the Octagon with anyone outside the Top 10. I'm really not sure who Jones should fight next, but I am sure I'm excited to see it.
Two other notes:
White on judging: "I'm not a big fan of judging lately," White said. "We're working with the athletic commissions to fix not only the judging, but also the reffing, too."
White on doing a show in Toronto: "I think we've made a lot of progress in Ontario," White said. "Originally when this thing first started they were like, 'No way.' [Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty] made a comment lately that it wasn't on the top of his list, but he didn't say it wasn't on his list. I think we've come a long way."