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Jon Jones brushes off Dominick Reyes’ eye poke concerns: ‘I fight how I fight’

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Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones believes it’s a good thing if title challenger Dominick Reyes is concerned about eyepokes.

Jones on Monday indicated Reyes is focusing on the wrong thing if he plans to warn the referee about potential fouls in advance of their title fight on Saturday at UFC 247.

“I fight how I fight,” Jones told MMA Fighting during a conference call in support of Saturday’s pay-per-view event at Toyota Center. “I grab for hands a lot, and over the years, I’ve coincidentally landed a few eyepokes. But if you guys think I trained poking people in the eyes, think about how ridiculous that is. We fight with our fingers open, and I can be a very reachy fighter sometimes, and it happens.”

Reyes told MMA Fighting he trained through eye pokes while preparing for the fight to adjust to blurred vision if Jones happens to skirt the rules. The light heavyweight contender later said regulators need to deal with “a culture of cheating” that’s blossomed around inadvertent fouls.

“Listen, the rule is, we’re taking a point away,” Reyes said. “That’s the rule. If he’s going poke me in the eyes, now I’m compromised, (and) that gives him a huge advantage. If I can’t see, if half my vision’s gone, that’s point worthy.”

In fact, the Association of Boxing Commissions modified its rules in 2016 to make it a foul when a fighter advances toward an opponents’ eyes with outstretched fingers. But the rule hasn’t been universally implemented by all member commissions, given that many need to go through the legislature to approve changes.

Jones, who’s previously defended against critics who say he intentionally fouls opponents, believes he’s the reason why the new rule exists. And he’s been repeatedly warned about his fingers during fights, to the point where he became irritated with an official whom he said was overdoing it.

“In my last (Alexander) Gustafsson fight, the referee kept saying, ‘Watch your fingers, Jon!’” Jones said. “My fingers weren’t even out, and he kept yelling at me, which was a major distraction.

“I know Dominick has a problem with the finger stuff, too, and he’s talking about talking to the referee before the fight. None of that stuff’s gonna matter, dude. I feel like the game made a rule that was singlehandedly based around me, and I won’t let that type of stuff matter.”

Jones stands firm on the way he trains and competes, and intentional eyepokes are not a part of his strategy.

”I haven’t changed anything about my training style,” he said. “I train very hard, and I don’t train to poke people in the eyes. But it’s good when people are thinking on that type of stuff. That’s good for me. If people are thinking, ‘I’m getting poked and (he’s) getting a free point,’ that type of stuff is good for me. I don’t think about that type of stuff.”

Jones also isn’t worried about potential issues with the referee for Saturday’s fight, which has yet to be assigned by the Texas athletic commission. The long-reigning champ once specifically requested veteran referee John McCarthy not officiate his fight, but this time around, no such move has been made.

“But I’ve had some sh*tty situations in there,” he said. “I felt like I’ve had some guys that were very obviously not on my side in that ring. I’m not going to say their names, because I don’t want to give them attention. But even with that happening, I still found a way to not only win those two fights, but finish those fights.”

“John McCarthy, I felt like his interview was way off. I also thought ... the interview comments in the second (Alexander Gustafsson fight at UFC 232), I felt like that referee was giving me some funny-ass energy backstage and in the cage. At the end of the day, I feel like if it’s in god’s plans for me to do what I’ve been doing, it won’t matter which coaches I have, which coaches Dominick has, who’s the referee – none of that stuff matters, man. God’s will is God’s will.”