After light heavyweight champion Jon Jones beat Rashad Evans at UFC 145, it already looked like he was close to achieving something that’s virtually impossible in the UFC -- that of cleaning out his division.
His next challenges had to come from outliers from 185 pounds; Vitor Belfort (coming up to 205 pounds on short notice) and Chael Sonnen (whom he coached opposite of on The Ultimate Fighter 17). The dearth of natural contenders at light heavyweight made speculation of his move to heavyweight less a matter of "if" as in "when."
That’s why heading into UFC 165, it really felt like Alexander Gustafsson might be among the last to challenge Jones at 205 pounds. The talk heading into that fight was about his Nike and Gatorade sponsors and a potential, not-so-distant superfight with Cain Velasquez.
That’s when things took a turn. Gustafsson gave Jones the test of his life at UFC 165, which made a rematch feel inevitable. And while that has been playing out, there’s been a replenishing of challengers, starting with this Saturday’s main event at UFC 172 against Glover Teixeira. Gustafsson is waiting in the wings, and so is Anthony Johnson, Phil Davis and Daniel Cormier.
On the UFC 172 media call on Monday, Jones said that Cain Velasquez -- who is tentatively slated to face Fabricio Werdum in the fall -- will just have to wait, because right now there’s a surplus of names vying for a shot at his belt.
"Yeah, definitely, I answered a question similar to that earlier today," he said. "Somebody was asking me about possibly fighting Cain Velasquez, and I answered to that, I have no interest at this point. There’s a lot of great competition for me to test myself against, Glover Teixeira obviously being first on that agenda. What a great challenge he will be."
Obviously things change day-by-day in the UFC, but Jones says he can only see himself defending his belt in the foreseeable future.
"People are interested in rematches," he said. "I got Phil Davis [also on the call] saying he’ll crumble me like a cookie. So, yeah, lots of competition left for me, and I’m excited to meet them all."