UFC light heavyweight Jon “Bones” Jones is considered by many to be a rising mixed martial arts superstar. The 22-year-old from Endicott, N.Y., won his first eight pro fights, including three in the UFC. His fourth UFC fight ended in a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill in December at the Ultimate Fighter Finale.
But if anyone does not buy into all the hype surrounding Jones, it’s the man himself. “I try not to think about it,” he told reporters on a conference call promoting his next fight March 21 against Brandon “The Truth” Vera at UFC on Versus. “I work really hard, train really hard… I can be God's gift to the world, Jesus Christ, then the next day be nothing,” he said.
When Jones next steps into the Octagon, he will find himself standing across from another fighter who heard the hype as he was rising through the ranks. Vera, who once claimed that he wanted to hold both the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight titles simultaneously, has learned that the only one who controls the outcome of the fight is the fighter.
“I stopped believing in the hype, stopped worrying what people said,” Vera said. “Now I’m back in there to hurt people.”
The Jones-Vera clash, which headlines the first UFC event on the Versus cable network, will be one that pits two top-tier athletes who are focused on career advancement.
“They could not have set up a better fight for the first Versus card,” Vera said. “It’s going to be an epic fight.”
Vera spent his camp attempting to simulate Jones’ unorthodox striking style but said it was impossible to find anyone to fit the bill perfectly. Picking Jones’ game apart on video has not proven to be any easier.
“The only thing we can find is inexperience,” Vera said. “His game is tight, his footwork is good… nobody’s been able to push him.”
Jones credited most of his improvement to joining one of the top MMA teams in the country headed by Greg Jackson. The team has multiple high-profile members, including Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans.
“It helps a lot to have a pro team behind me,” Jones said. “Now I have the confidence to go along with my work ethic, I feel like a pro athlete instead of a guy trying to make it in a pro sport."
In Vera, Jones gets his wish to continue stepping up the competition he faces. The controversial loss to Hamill did not affect Jones negatively, as he had more important things to worry about, such as missing the birth of his daughter the same night.
“You’re going to have your ups and downs,” Jones said. “My dream is the belt and to be one of the top fighters, period. It’s about improving day by day.”
Both fighters realize the importance of this fight and want to show that they belong among the elite 205-pound fighters in the world. Picking up the victory is important, but putting on a good fight is even more pertinent.
“This is a way to reintroduce myself to the world,” Vera said. “I’m not playing games.”
“I think 15 minutes is too long for me and Jones to stand and bang,” he said. “One of us is going to have to go to sleep.
Videos: Jon "Bones" Jones, followed by Brandon Vera.