Jones routed Ovince Saint Preux to claim the interim UFC light heavyweight title on Saturday night in Las Vegas, sweeping every round on the scorecards against a late-replacement opponent in Saint Preux. The victory was Jones' first since the 2015 hit-and-run accident which derailed his career, however the fight lacked much of the flashy action that Jones is known for, and the fans in attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena weren't shy to let Jones hear it.
"When I was hearing the boos, I realized, okay, I'm chasing this guy," Jones said at Saturday's post-fight press conference. "Like, I'm chasing him and he was just circling and backing up, so I was like, alright, maybe these boos aren't for me. But, I like to give exciting fights and I felt as if I put my best foot forward. Obviously I could do more. I'm hoping that the majority of the boos were for Ovince. I think the fans are just used to me giving them real cool, exciting stuff, and they saw a more hesitant version of me versus a guy who was backing up a lot."
Jones attributed most of his issues to the fact that he spent a majority of his camp preparing to fight UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who withdrew from the match three weeks out from fight night after suffering a foot injury.
Saint Preux stepped up on late notice to save the show, however the lanky southpaw proved to be a far different stylistic challenge than the stout wrestler Cormier, and considering the stakes at hand -- a headlining spot opposite Cormier at UFC 200 -- Jones found himself fighting a safer fight than he intended.
"Ovince is a heavy hitter," Jones said. "He has this huge knockout power, and I was like, dude, I can't lose to a guy like Ovince trying to do too much. So a part of me, this may sound funny, but a part of me was just like: 'you gotta fight DC, Jon. You gotta fight DC.' Like, do what you gotta do to win this fight. The goal is to get back to DC. Whether you look like crap right now or not, the goal is to get back to DC.
"So I'm not making any excuses, but that was definitely in my psychology. Just like, alright, do what you gotta do to win each round. Finish if you can. But, don't miss out on an opportunity to fight DC by getting in there and haymaking with a guy who has this freakish knockout power, a guy who gets these knockouts from these really weird and unpredictable angles."
While Jones was disappointed in his performance, he took pride in the fact that he remained on UFC 197 despite Cormier's withdrawal.
In 2012, Jones drew criticism for refusing to fight Chael Sonnen on short notice in a similar situation, and he saw Saturday night as a chance to make up to any fans who harbored lingering resentment.
"It kind of makes us even," Jones said. "It's like, okay, Jon Jones ruined the day. I meet fans to these day who are like, ‘dude, I saved my money. I had my flight. I had my ticket. I made a lot of sacrifices to see you for the first time.' People are really pissed off with me sometimes about that, and always felt like, okay, I stayed true to myself and my coaching staff because that's just not what we do. But, then I've always felt a certain amount of guilt for the people who sacrificed and missed out.
"So, fighting this time really made me feel like I saved the day for a lot of my fans and I got to do something really positive for those guys. I knew it was a big risk fighting a southpaw knockout artist, one that I didn't prepare for, but I took that for them and we won that fight."