Despite Jon Jones’ current legal troubles, along with a public exit from his former longtime team, renowned striking coach Eddie Cha is happy to have the former UFC light heavyweight champion aboard at Phoenix’s Fight Ready gym.
Following his induction into the UFC Hall of Fame for his memorable battle against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, Jones was arrested on charges of battery domestic violence and injuring and tampering with a vehicle in Las Vegas. In addition, JacksonWink co-founder and coach Mike Winklejohn appeared on The MMA Hour in October and revealed that Jones was suspended from entering the facility. Since then, Jones has been seen training at Fight Ready with the likes of fellow former UFC champion Henry Cejudo.
Cha spoke with MMA Fighting on Monday to provide details on how Jones was brought into the fold.
“Henry gave me a call and told me that Jon reached out to him and was interested in coming out,” Cha told MMA Fighting. “We kind of prepared some things to work on and we’re super excited to have him here.
“Everything that we decide is done as a team. It starts with our owner David Zowine. He calls each and every one of us and asks us if we want a certain individual here and we’ll say yes or no, and [give our reasons] why, then go from there. For me, it was a no-brainer. I think that people make mistakes — whether they make one, two, or three. Jon’s just under a microscope. Whenever he does anything wrong, it’s magnified. But if you know him as an individual, and I don’t know him as well as other people, but I’ve heard from other people doing my research, Greg [Jackson] has never had a problem with him, [Brandon] Gibson has never had a problem with him as an individual.
“I don’t think anyone agrees with the mistakes he’s made, but at the same time we all make mistakes. I was super happy to work with him and judge him as an individual. I was saying let’s not judge him until we get to know him first, and I was super impressed — as a human being and as an athlete.”
Jones was initially scheduled to appear in Las Vegas court this past week, however prosecutors were granted additional time to file the criminal complaint against the 34-year-old and the hearing was postponed until Jan. 31, 2022.
With everything still up in the air in regards to the allegations against Jones, Cha says there was little to no hesitation to bring Jones in.
“For me, no,” Cha said. “I don’t think that we’re able to change anybody unless somebody is willing to change. He’s come back and forth a few times already and the dude’s a class act, to me. I have zero problems with him and I’m excited to work with him.”
It’s been nearly two years since “Bones” last competed inside the octagon, a unanimous decision win over Dominick Reyes in his final light heavyweight title defense at UFC 247 in February 2020. He has since vacated his title in lieu of a move to the heavyweight division.
According to Cha, since Jones began spending time at the Arizona gym, he’s been a great presence for the community, as well as the high-level fighters he shares the mats with.
“Obviously word got out that he was coming in, and there would be tons of people coming in wanting pictures and autographs,” Cha explained. “Even when we’re working out, you’d see little 5-year-old kids with their parents with stuff waiting for him to sign. During workouts, he’d look over, ‘How ya’ doing little man? Is this your son, sir? How are you doing? Can I come over and say hi?’
“He’ll literally take the time. Any kid that he sees, he’s gonna take the time to say hi, take pictures, whatever they want. There was like nine, 10 fans outside when we were working on a Saturday, same thing. He goes out, takes pictures, says hi. To me, you can kind of tell about an individual with how they act around kids. I think that makes a big difference.
“Another thing, Eryk Anders has been in camp [preparing for UFC 269]. I don’t know how well they’ve known each other or anything, but the next week we came in and it was, ‘What do you want to work on?’ [Jones] said, ‘Well, I’m here for Eryk. Whatever he wants.’ I’m like, ‘Jon, you’re too big for him. I appreciate it, you’re not a light heavy no more, you’re an actual heavyweight now.’ He’s like 250, 255 now. Eryk was [jokingly] like, ‘What? He’s not helping me do nothing. He’s too big.’ But he’s just been nothing but giving from what we’ve seen.”
Cha can’t officially say with full confidence that if Jones gets his wish, he’ll spend all — or even part — of his training camp at Fight Ready. Of course, Cha hopes that ends up being the case.
When asked how he believes Jones matches up with Ngannou or Gane, Cha believes that with all Jones has accomplished throughout his career, that’s not the question to be asking.
“I can tell you that he’s hungry, he’s learning, he’s eager to get going again, and hopefully we see him in there soon,” Cha said.
“But honestly, he’s one of the best to ever do it. He matches up well against anybody and the question should be: How does Ngannou match up against him? How does Gane match up against him? Because Jon can do it in any way — he can wrestle one guy, or he can strike with one guy. He can go southpaw, he can go to orthodox. He can box, he can kickbox. His cage wrestling is amazing. His elbows are notorious.
“What separates him from what I’ve seen — and I went back and watched some of his fights before working with him — is his mindset. He knows how to win. If you watch that Dominick Reyes fight — which I though was really, really close by the way — he just knows when to walk away with his fight. He knows, ‘I’ve got to win this round.’ He knows when to win these next two minutes of a round. I think the greats — even Henry Cejudo was kind of the same thing — if he sees blood, he goes for it right away. The greats are amazing finishers and they’re just winners.”