LOS ANGELES -- Jon Jones is as confident in his skillset as anyone. For good reason. He's the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world and arguably the best of all time.
That doesn't mean, though, that he hasn't been worried going into a fight. Lately, he has been free of those fears. But Jones said at a recent media lunch that the last time an opponent truly concerned him was Quinton Jackson.
"The last time I had major doubt going into a fight, I would have to say it was when I fought 'Rampage' Jackson," Jones said. "I had a lot of nightmares leading up to that fight of things not going my way. And for some reason, he just ... he intimidated me. He really did. I don't know what it was."
Jones fought Jackson, an MMA legend, at UFC 135 in 2011 and beat him by fourth-round submission. It was Jones' first light heavyweight title defense. "Rampage" tried getting into Jones' head leading into that bout, telling him he was too cocky. It almost worked, Jones said, because there was something about Jackson that stood out above the rest.
"I think it had something to do with being a young, black kid and 'Rampage' is one of those guys -- he's the guy, you know?" Jones said. "He howls and the big old chain and everything. I kind of looked up to him and idolized him. Even though I knew I was a better martial artist, there was almost like a big-brother complex in there somewhere in a weird way. I used to have bad dreams of things not going my way against 'Rampage.'"
Jones' record mostly unscathed before that bout, aside from a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill in 2009, and he hasn't lost since, either. "Bones" would still be holding that light heavyweight belt if not for a felony hit-and-run arrest in April 2015 that caused the UFC to strip it from him.
"Rampage" himself was a former UFC light heavyweight champion and massive star in PRIDE. Before his UFC debut, Jones said he ran into Jackson backstage and it was a bit of an embarrassing moment.
"I thought to myself, I'm gonna see these fighters and I'm not gonna be a groupie," Jones said. "I'm gonna play it cool when I see these guys.
"I was playing my cool. I walk around the corner and 'Rampage' and was sitting on a chair. I didn't expect him to be so close and I go, 'Rampage!' He looks at me, he's like, 'Oh, you're the Jones kid or whatever.' I was sitting there thinking in my head, I can't believe I just did that. 'Rampage' has always been kind of one of those guys, he's such a cool dude. I idolized him a little bit. I think when it was time to fight him it kind of played in my head a little bit."