LOS ANGELES -- If there's anything to be learned from the last few months in mixed martial arts, it's that UFC stars are incredibly vulnerable. Losing is more of an inevitably than anything else.
Conor McGregor was submitted by Nate Diaz back in March. Ronda Rousey was knocked out by Holly Holm last November. Even the most dominant seemingly invincible fighters have fallen.
Except Jon Jones, that is.
Yes, Jones has a loss on his record, but that was a ludicrous disqualification for illegal elbows against Matt Hamill in 2009, a fight that he was on the verge of winning easily. But no opponent has truly defeated Jones in 23 career fights, 17 of those in the UFC.
Jones, 28, said at a UFC 200 media lunch Tuesday here that he owes not losing to the thought in the back of his mind that a loss is always possible, looming on the horizon. He thinks other UFC stars, like McGregor and Rousey, have failed because their self-belief was taken to an unhealthy level.
"I try to exude confidence and I try to be confidence," Jones said. "Even when I'm not confident, I pretend to be confident. It's important. But I know that I can be beat and I think that's why I haven't been beat, where some of these guys really start to believe their hype.
"Ronda Rousey, they were saying she's the best fighter of all time and best athlete in the world, stuff like that. And I was happy for her to hear those types of accolades, but once I realized that maybe she was starting to believe it herself, I knew she was in a dangerous spot. Conor McGregor saying these things about just being the baddest dude and 'I'll beat anybody at any weight class,' that's foolish stuff. When you believe the hype to that level, that's when you're in danger."
Jones (22-1) will put that mostly unscathed record on the line against Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas. The storyline is fascinating, because Cormier comes into the fight as UFC light heavyweight champion. Jones never lost that belt in the Octagon and beat Cormier by unanimous decision in January 2015. But Cormier won the vacant title after it was stripped from Jones following Jones' felony hit-and-run arrest in April 2015.
In this particular fight, Jones' motivation is obvious: He wants to win that title back and continue his legacy as perhaps the greatest MMA fighter of all time. Overall, though, Jones is also driven by the ever-present feeling that he could lose at any point.
"I talk about being confident in winning all the time, but the reason why I tend to always win is because at the end of the day I'm more nervous than any other fighter," Jones said, "and it causes me to spend every night until 3 o'clock in the morning just on my laptop watching the same damn fight over and over again with a notebook, thinking about the ways I can lose, thinking about what I need to do. That's really what I attribute to being undefeated all these years, just how seriously take it and how much I don't know. It gives me power."
While there is a perception by some that Jones can't be defeated, "Bones" said that is disproven all the time at his JacksonWink MMA gym in Albuquerque.
It's remarkable that he has been able to put together the streak he has in a sport where big stars losing is the norm. Losing when it doesn't count, Jones said, has beget winning when it does. And when it counts, well, that's when Jones has always been at his very best.
"I think I owe not losing to losing," Jones said. "I lose a lot in practice. There's a lot of guys who are on my team currently, a lot of guys on my team who aren't in the UFC who can beat me on any given day. I get taken down all the time in practice. I get hit pretty hard. I get tapped out all the time in practice. To the fans and other fighters, they probably look at me as close to unbeatable. Whereas if you spend time, you see that I'm definitely not a guy that wins every day. I just got beat in a 5-mile run by a kid that's like 16, 15 years old. So, I know that I'm not unbeatable."