Longtime Jackson-Wink striking coach Brandon Gibson has seen Jon Jones’ move to heavyweight first hand and is expecting an even more dangerous fighter when he steps back into the octagon.
Jones vacated his light heavyweight title this past year in lieu of a new challenge to capture the UFC heavyweight title. While he has yet to make his debut at the new weight class, or receive the fight he seeks with current champion Francis Ngannou, Gibson says that “Bones” has not only set a tone for himself, but he has lit a fire under his entire team and coaching staff.
“Jon has been the most dominant champion in UFC history,” Gibson told MMA Fighting on Wednesday. “He has the record for titles but, man, this goal [of becoming heavyweight champion] has sparked a fire in all of us.
“Whether it comes in a few months, or comes in a year-plus, Jon’s 33. I feel like he’s not even in his heavyweight prime yet. We’re taking our time, we’re doing this right and there’s a lot of other business decisions outside of my realm. But my job is to treat Jon Jones as a professional athlete, a professional martial artist and the great champion that he is 24/7.”
Gibson, who is currently preparing Aaron Pico for his upcoming Bellator 260 matchup with Aiden Lee, believes that Jones has found that next level in his career—similarly to some of the greatest athletes to compete in the sports world.
“That’s the biggest area I’ve seen him increase: Jon’s approach to becoming a 365 athlete,” Gibson said. “You’re inspired by guys like Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron [James], who continue to have great success in their mid to late 30’s and what it took to have that, to grow as that professional athlete. Jon Jones has that in him, man.
“He’s had great success in his 20’s, a great run at light heavyweight, but Jon not only has that focus of being a heavyweight champion with this huge task in front of us, but also his commitment to himself as a professional athlete, I think we have yet to see the most dangerous Jon Jones there is. This version is going to be greater than any of them.”
After nearly a decade of dominance in the octagon from his pupil, Gibson was completely on board for Jones making the ascension to the heavyweight division. With time on their side to patiently await Jones’ first heavyweight opportunity, Gibson believes when it ultimately does happen it will click the proverbial refresh button in the division.
“You don’t see a lot of successful heavyweights in their 20’s,” Gibson explained. “A lot of the great heavyweight champs have been late 30’s, we’ve even had heavyweight champs in their 40’s. Heavyweight is a bit of a different game than other weight classes in MMA. I think Jon with his strength, with his size, his skillset and repertoire that he’s bringing to the heavyweight division is going to really shake things up.
“We’re not just looking to take that heavyweight belt, we’re looking to defend and defend and defend just like we did with the light heavyweight belt.”