LOS ANGELES - Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier both deeply regret their brawl at a publicity stop in Las Vegas earlier this week.
The light heavyweights also say they would probably do it again in a similar situation.
Jones and Cormier kept their rivalry civil Tuesday during another publicity appearance for their title fight next month. They sat on opposite sides of a stage at a club in downtown Los Angeles, with police officers watching them warily.
"The whole situation was silly, and I think I reacted inappropriately," said Jones, the UFC's 205-pound champion. "I think I turned a lot of fans off. I think I turned a ton of fans on."
Indeed, the fighters will likely face disciplinary action from the UFC and the Nevada Athletic Commission for a scuffle that started during a photo faceoff in the lobby of the MGM Grand casino. They also created a viral phenomenon that sold untold thousands of pay-per-view buys and garnered international interest in their title showdown at UFC 178 on Sept. 27.
"I do believe we have to carry ourselves more respectfully," Cormier said. "MMA is a very new sport, and when we behave the way we did, it's easy to say it's just a sport filled with thugs."
It all started when Jones and Cormier walked straight into each other during the traditional photo faceoff at the MGM Grand casino on Monday, with the taller Jones putting his forehead on Cormier's head.
Cormier then shoved Jones with his hand at the champion's neck, and Jones threw a looping punch. The fighters fell off a makeshift stage into a crowd of fans and UFC employees while trading more punches and kicks, sending one public relations man who tried to get between them tumbling into a makeshift backdrop.
Jones said the brawl was part of the "mental warfare" before any fight.
"If Daniel could touch me like that and me not do anything, I think it would have given him a false sense of confidence," Jones said. "I needed to let him know that I am not on the defense. I am the lion. I am the aggressor. I am the one that's on the attack. You're just not going to do that to me."
Cormier said the confrontation brought back childhood memories of bullies in Lafayette, Louisiana.
"I can defend myself now," Cormier said. "I'm never allowing anyone to dominate me again."
Jones and Cormier didn't get near each other in Los Angeles, but they flung insults and jokes across the stage in front of several hundred excited fans. At one point, Jones stood and picked up his stool, taking three menacing steps toward Cormier on the far end of the stage before breaking into a laugh and a grin.
Even without an eye-catching brawl, this title fight already was the UFC's most compelling matchup of the fall. Jones (20-1) is widely considered the pound-for-pound champion of MMA, while Cormier (15-0) is an undefeated former heavyweight who has loomed for years as Jones' biggest challenge.
Although Jones is apologetic about his latest instance of questionable behavior, he also thinks he learned something useful for their fight next month from that early preview.
"I felt his strength there," Jones said. "He really isn't that strong."