Mark La Monica is the deputy sports editor for cross media at Newsday and writes about mixed martial
He's young and energetic, exciting and good looking, charismatic and magnetic. Let's just hope Jon "Bones" Jones possesses good enough balance in his 6-4 frame to not trip over all the things being thrown at his feet as the newest star in mixed martial arts.
"I'm just relaxing, enjoying my kids and family and eating cheeseburgers and being 23," said Jones, who won the UFC light heavyweight championship two weeks ago with a crushing defeat of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Five days later, Jones became the first UFC fighter to appear on "The Tonight Show." See his verified Twitter account @jonnybones for the pictures to prove he's "being 23" and loving every minute of it.
And why shouldn't he? The young man, just three years removed from watching fight clips on YouTube and thinking to himself, "I can do that," Jones won the title. He sits atop his division in the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in the world. Some even go so far to say Jones is the new poster boy for the UFC.
"I'm enjoying the ride," he said. "I see myself as the face of the light heavyweight division, but not of the UFC."
Jones is a spiritual person and a father to children ages 1, 2 and 3. As glorious a ride as it must be to wrap your waist with gold and be the envy of males 18-34 across the country, Jones remains grounded in reality.
"If I didn't have my kids, I wouldn't go so hard all the time," said Jones, who grew up in upstate Ithaca. "Surviving for those guys is more cool than being the champion of the world. Knowing that my kids don't have to worry about where they're going to get their next meal is really my drive."
He's thinking about finding a hobby to occupy his downtime. His first thought about what to do: "Maybe get a membership at a fitness center."
This from a man who does things in the octagon that people haven't seen before. And he does it with flair and flash at blinding speeds. A fighter with just three years experience -- a kid, in fight terms -- shouldn't be making a champion and MMA legend look like someone who won an online fan auction to fight in the octagon.
That's what happened to Rua, who managed to connect on a total of 13 strikes before falling to the 87th and final strike (a knee) from Jones in the third round.
With such promise and hype comes pressure. Piles of it. Fans expect Jones to reinvent a sport he is still very much learning. It's part of that "What's next?" mentality pervading our daily lives. We have so much at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen, we often struggle to appreciate what happens right in front of us.
"It's actually a pressure that people have put upon me that I never asked for," said Jones (13-1, 7-1 UFC). "I never joined the sport saying I want to be the blueprint of what fighting is, and I want to be looked at as the whole future of martial arts."
Jones strives to be a good person -- heck, he foiled a burglary attempt just a few hours before his title fight -- and accepts the challenge bestowed upon him.
"It's a crazy responsibility to have and I guess that's going to keep me really passionate about learning it and expanding my game," Jones said. "I just try to be me and if people see greatness, obviously that's sweet. It's me now. I'm aware of it. I always hear 'The Future, the Future, the Future,' almost as if my nickname is that instead of 'Bones.' I just have to keep working and live up to all this potential. And it's great. Everyone should strive high, and I just have more of a reason to not settle."