Jon Jones' recent devotion to the weight room isn't going unnoticed by the UFC brass.
UFC president Dana White appeared Thursday on ESPN, and when asked about Jones' potential return, he couldn't help but gush over the progress the ex-light heavyweight champion has made during his time away from the sport.
"He's actually doing really well," White said. "And I don't know if you follow him on Instagram, but he's been in the gym. You won't believe him when you see him. He has completely transformed. This guy is jacked. He's been lifting, like powerlifting. He's huge right now."
Jones' social media accounts have exploded with videos of his powerlifting exploits since the UFC reinstated the 28-year-old from indefinite suspension, prompting renewed speculation about a potential move to heavyweight once Jones returns to action in early 2016. Jones himself said the move was "inevitable" last month during a sprawling interview with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, and White seems to be in agreement.
"He'll still be a light heavyweight, but he's planning on making that move to heavyweight," White said." He definitely is. Jones looks awesome. He's one of those freakish kind of athletes, he might be the best who's ever done it. He might be the best that's ever been in the game. And he's one of those freakish athletes that could [have success at both weight classes]. I mean, look at his brothers. Chandler is having an incredible season with the Patriots right now. He's a freak of nature, this guy could do anything, and it's good to see his head clear. And trust me, I'd rather see him in the gym than, you know."
Jones (21-1) is expected challenge Daniel Cormier in a rematch of their UFC 182 contest, which Jones won by unanimous decision, sometime in the first or second quarter of next year. A win would make Jones a two-time light heavyweight champion and would resume the traditional pecking order that has ruled over the division since Jones first became champion in 2011 with a brutal victory over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
After that, though, Jones' options could broaden. The ex-champion told Helwani that he has "unfinished business" with Anthony Johnson, stemming from the pair's ill-fated UFC 187 fight that fell through due to Jones' legal troubles. Then a move up to heavyweight could be the next step, as Jones effectively would have defeated most of the light heavyweight top-10.
"I'm totally comfortable going rounds with big guys, and now that I have the strength of a heavyweight my confidence is through the roof," Jones told Helwani.
"I actually think I'm physically stronger than a lot of them right now, and my skills speaks for themselves."