The marveling at Jon Jones’ displays of mixed martial arts inside the UFC’s octagon has been happening for more than decade.
Perhaps more dizzying than his spectacular talents, and more impressive than his ability to at times derail his own path toward greatness, is his staying power.
Jones’ light heavyweight title defense against Dominick Reyes on Saturday at UFC 247 in Houston will be his 15th consecutive championship bout. Not even Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre or Demetrious Johnson can match that number.
“I don't believe any fight is a big fight. It's just another fight,” Jones said on a conference call Monday. “For my opponent, it is a very big fight. They probably hire more people than they’ve ever hired. They seek more help from people they probably never asked for help from before. They're getting motivated and pushed by some of the people. They are eating healthier than ever before. I mean, every guy I've ever been against in a title fight believes that he had the best training camp of his life. That's what I'm used to. This is 100 percent what I do, I've been doing it for a long time.”
Jones (25-1, 1 no contest) first won the UFC title from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in March 2011. Since then, there have been 13 more title fights (one interim), three strippings of his belt for legal issues and violations of the UFC’s drug testing policy, and a dwindling number of contenders.
In Reyes (12-0), a former football player for Stony Brook University, Jones faces someone with knockout power. Reyes has seven career wins by knockout. Reyes, 30, is the same height as Jones and has far less octagon mileage on his 6-foot-4 frame. Jones, of course, has a seven-inch reach advantage on Reyes.
“I really like the fact that he's undefeated, I think something special comes out of me when I fight guys who are undefeated,” Jones said. “Ryan Bader was undefeated. He's now the double champ. That excited me. Daniel Cormier was undefeated and looked at as close to invincible by many people. That excited me, and I passed those tests. Glover Teixeira was on a 20-fight win streak when I met him. So, it definitely brings out more when I'm fighting someone who's never tasted defeat before.”
Jones called Reyes “the toughest guy out there right now” for him to face in the light heavyweight division. Jones said he had a conversation with the UFC about who his next opponent would be after he won a split decision over Thiago Santos. It was between Reyes, coming off a win over former middleweight champion Chris Weidman, and Corey Anderson, who last beat Johnny Walker.
“I chose Dominick Reyes because me and my coaches watched Corey fight and watched Dominick and we saw that Dominick was finishing people,” Jones said. “I like a guy like Corey Anderson who can grind out a 25-minute fight, match me in cardio, but Corey Anderson doesn't really finish people like that. You know, Dominick can finish people, which is way more of a challenge. It's way more scary of a fight. And that's exactly why we did it.”
Reyes is 6-0 in the UFC since debuting with the promotion in June 2017, and Saturday will be his second main-event spotlight, his first on pay-per-view. Some MMA circles suggest that maybe this is too soon for Reyes to be facing Jones.
“It did happen fast, and that's a testament to my hard work and attention to detail,” Reyes said. “Just take every day as it comes, man. You could worry about all those things but one thing at a time. One step at a time. We used to say when I was in college, the road ahead seems daunting. Take a breath and focus on the next step.”