“A couple of nights before the fight, he couldn’t lift his arm. He had hurt it wrestling,” Winkeljohn told Submission Radio. “He wrestled a little too hard with his partner and maybe from a lack of warm up, I’m not sure, but it was kind scary. It was one of those situations where when I was warming him up I’d ask the coaches and they had agreed, they were ahead of me on this, that we shouldn’t be doing a lot wrestling because I didn’t want Jon to try and have to underhook and lift with his one arm because it could potentially cause it to be hurt again and mess with his mindset. I wanted to keep that out of it and hopefully so that way if it got re-injured in the fight, the adrenaline would take over.
“So it was kind of scary that nobody knew about it. There was an injury behind the scenes, but Jon is who he is, he’s as tough as they come and like I said, nobody beats Jon Jones but himself. Once he decides he wants to win a fight, he’s going to win.”
And win Jones did, dispatching Cormier with a head kick and ground-and-pound in the third round to reclaim the title that was stripped of him two years ago for his involvement in a hit-and-run.
It had been a long road for “Bones” to get another shot at becoming the undisputed champion at 205 pounds, and his team had to put a lot of thought into how his injury could affect his performance because there was zero chance he was going to withdraw from the UFC 214 main event.
“He just couldn’t lift it basically over his head and stuff. Of course, it’s definitely concerning,” Winkeljohn said. “You know, in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Are you going to be able to underhook with that arm? Or if not, you have to use a lot more frames and more downward pressure and circle the opposite direction, so game plan might have to be changed a little bit if it doesn’t get healed.’
“So there’s a lot of things that are going through the coaches’ minds. Who knows what was going through Jon’s mind. He basically didn’t say anything other than he’s fighting.”
Jones gave little indication of how much his arm was bothering him when it came time to make the walk to the Octagon, something that Winkeljohn attributes to the 30-year-old’s championship mindset. He added that the best is yet to come for Jones, especially after showing he could overcome adversity and return to the form that once had many touting him as the best to ever compete in MMA.
“Oh, it was great, it was a great feeling (to see him win the title again),” Winkeljohn said. “You know, it was great for him because I know Jon needed - I shouldn’t say needed that - but I was excited for Jon Jones to redeem himself and get back to where he was before. And like I said, no one beats Jon Jones but himself.
“So now it’s all back in Jon’s corner again. He is the guy, he is considered the best, and so now he just has to do the right things and train hard and I think you haven’t seen a lot of what Jon Jones can do.”