Back atop the light heavyweight division for the first time in two years, Jones called out former UFC heavyweight champion and current WWE star Brock Lesnar following his third-round knockout of Cormier on Saturday night, and according to Jones, the reason for that challenge was simple.
“I just think it’s a winnable matchup,” Jones said at UFC 214’s post-fight press conference. “Obviously Brock Lesnar has millions of followers outside of MMA, so that’s huge for our sport, to kind of steal some of those followers. And I feel like Brock, he has a pretty limited game, and I just think it’s a winnable fight and there’s just so much reward that’s involved. I just want to do it.”
The callout was not surprising. Lesnar emerged as a topic of discussion early during UFC 214 fight week when Jones said in a Facebook Live chat that he “would love” to face Lesnar, and hours later, the professional wrestler seemingly accepted Jones’ challenge. Jones responded a day later, stating at UFC 214’s pre-fight press conference that he would “deal with Brock Lesnar” after taking care of business against Cormier.
Jones certainly kept his word on the latter, knocking out Cormier with a vicious striking sequence midway through the third-round of their title rematch at UFC 214. And afterward, despite Lesnar currently residing out of the UFC and sitting on suspension for his failed drug test at UFC 200, Jones indicated that he was dead serious about moving up to heavyweight to face the former champion.
“To be honest with you, I have no clue where this Brock Lesnar situation came from, how it started,” Jones said. “But it got serious really quick, and I started talking to my management team, First Round Management, and my team at Jackson’s MMA, and I said, ‘well, what do you guys think if this was to happen?’ Obviously my manager was like, ‘well it’s going to be a big payday.’ That’s his job, right? Make me money.
“But my team at Jackson’s MMA, (Greg) Jackson and [Mike Winkeljohn], they said, ‘Jon, you could win that fight. You’re going to have to dig deep, you’re going to have to take your self-belief to a higher level, you’re going to have to earn this fight. Obviously you’re going to have to change a lot, fighting at 225 or 230,’ but they said, ‘you can do this.’ And so we made up in our mind that we were serious about it.”
Jones, 30, is unquestionably the greatest fighter the light heavyweight division has ever seen and has long discussed the idea of trying his hand at heavyweight. That being said, he indicated on Saturday that he would only make the move for a fight that felt special, one that could be both lucrative for him and made stylistic sense for his team — conditions which Jones said made a potential champion vs. champion match against UFC heavyweight king Stipe Miocic an unappealing prospect.
“I feel like if I was to take a fight at heavyweight, it would be against a person who I felt, me and my coaches felt, like it was just a perfect matchup for me,” Jones said. “Right now Stipe is looking extremely impressive, and I believe if you get an extremely talented big guy versus an extremely talented little guy, I mean, a lot of the cards are in his favor. At the same time, I fear no man.
“But I strike for a reason when I strike, and I feel like Stipe is relatively unknown to the general public, so it wouldn’t even be a real superfight, in my opinion. I think the MMA fans would be really excited about it, but the general public wouldn’t care about that fight. Most people don’t really know who he is, with all due respect to him. So, if I’m going to sacrifice being the smaller guy, I think stylistically Brock would be a fight that makes way more sense, and the payday would be tremendous, what it would do for our sport would be tremendous. It would have a much greater impact. So, for many reasons, a Brock Lesnar fight just makes more sense to me.”
Historically, Lesnar is one of the biggest financial draws to ever compete in MMA. Despite only appearing eight times in the Octagon, the 40-year-old professional wrestler has fought on a whopping five UFC events that have sold more than 1 million pay-per-view buys.
Lesnar’s box office success is matched only by UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, and with McGregor’s unprecedented boxing match against Floyd Mayweather less than a month away, Jones admitted that the Irishman has changed the way “Bones” looks at the fight game.
“He has been a tremendous inspiration to me,” Jones said. “He has shown me, who has been in the upper echelon of this sport for many years now, he’s shown me that these huge paydays are possible. I never thought, in my time as champion, as a fighter, that I would see fighters making $70 million or $100 million or whatever he’s making in his Mayweather fight. It’s been an inspiration that you can do it.
“That’s like the first guy to go to the moon, right? Now everybody want to go to the moon. It’s like the first guy who ran a five-minute mile; now everyone sees that as possible. And that’s what McGregor’s done for me. So yeah, facing a guy like Brock Lesnar, getting the world excited about an MMA fight, and ultimately making some of those [millions], that’s what we’re here for, right?”