A move up to heavyweight always seemed to be the final frontier for Jon Jones. The longtime UFC light heavyweight champion, and current interim light heavyweight champion, stoked the flames of a potential shift up in weight for years, stating often that it was a goal he wanted to achieve once he had cleaned out the 205-pound division for good.
However, after seeing the effect his newfound sobriety has had on his lanky 6'4" frame, Jones no longer views the move towards heavyweight as something in his future plans.
"I'm looking at it as, if it's not broke, don't fix it," Jones said this week on the UFC Unfiltered podcast. "You know, I used to eat bad and party all the time, and that made me think, well, maybe I won't be able to manage staying at this size, staying at this weight. But you know, now, I've calmed myself down quite a bit through a life of sobriety and just a different outlook on my career and everything.
"I eat healthier naturally, and I just make better decisions naturally, so my weight cut has been better. I walk around with a better physique than I used to. I just feel and treat myself better, and I'm also almost 30 years old, so I'm not hitting any growth spurts this late in my life. So I've got a feeling that I can stay at this weight class for a long time."
Jones, 28, is currently scheduled to rematch Daniel Cormier in a title unification match on July 9 in the main event of UFC 200. The moment is a long time in the making for Jones -- who was stripped of his 205-pound title in April 2015 for his role in a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque, N.M. -- and comes just two months after Jones made his victorious UFC return with a lopsided win over Ovince Saint Preux.
Jones spent all of his fight camp for Saint Preux sober for the first time in his championship career. He vows to have done the same thing for UFC 200, and he acknowledged that it has been a far different experience than when he first defeated Cormier at UFC 182.
"I love it, man. I'm so much happier now," Jones said. "I still go out all the time, I still hang out with a bunch of people who like to have a good time, but I'm that dude at the party who's just sober, and I love it. I just feel so much better, like I have better friendships, better connections with people, my confidence sober is through the roof.
"I used to be the guy who, I would go out, if I was too close to a fight and didn't want to drink, I'd be like well I'm definitely not going to have a good time tonight stuck sitting here sober. I wouldn't dance, I wouldn't do sh*t. I would just have a negative outlook on the whole night because I knew I couldn't turn up. And now, dude, I can go out and freaking dance and laugh and have epic times, completely sober."
If Jones is able to best Cormier a second time and reclaim the title he never lost inside the cage, it appears the light heavyweight division will be his domain for the remainder of his fighting prime. Rather than taking any adventures up towards heavyweight, Jones hopes to restart the streak of title defenses that was cut short by his own past mistakes, and make as much money as he can while doing it.
"Right now I've got Daniel, (Alexander) Gustafsson, and (Anthony) ‘Rumble' (Johnson), they're the only three guys really that I've got to work harder than," Jones said. "Those are the only three guys who can stop me from being the greatest ever. So, I think I'm going to stay at this weight class for a long time and focus on being better than those three until some new blood comes along, and try to rack up as much money and as many wins as I can."