Jon “Bones” Jones is one of the brightest stars in the history of Mixed Martial Arts.
Just three years into his career as a professional fighter, Jones has posted a 12-1 record. His only loss (to Matt Hammill in December 2009) came via disqualification due to illegal elbow strikes.
Jones will compete in the biggest fight of his young career Saturday night, when he challenges Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) light heavyweight title holder Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event of UFC 128 in Newark, New Jersey.
At just 23 years old, Jones has used a flashy style and an ability to catch opponents off guard to endear himself to MMA fans all over the world. He comes into his first title fight just weeks after an impressive submission victory of then undefeated Ryan Bader at UFC 126 in Las Vegas.
Fans of the Baltimore Ravens may find themselves with a particular rooting interest in Jones Saturday night, as he is the younger brother of DT Arthur Jones, the team’s 2010 5th round pick out of Syracuse in the NFL Draft.
As his younger brother prepares for the biggest fight of his young career, the elder Jones has spent time working alongside him and famed MMA trainer Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Between participation in a high profile camp, an amateur wrestling background, the fluid nature of the current National Football League lockout and the decision of Ravens teammate Tom Zbikowski to step into a boxing ring earlier this month, Jones has many reasons to consider a step into the MMA world himself.
“I’m really leaning towards taking a fight” the elder Jones told Thyrl Nelson and myself in an interview Thursday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST. “But we’ll see. Right now I’m doing it for cardio and getting my hands right. Getting my muscles flowing so I can be in the best shape I can come this year whenever I get called back to the farm to work.”
Jones’ situation is not exactly like Zbikowski’s. Zbikowski had 90 amateur fights and a professional victory already on his resume as a boxer before he was even selected by the Ravens out of Notre Dame in 2008. During his first three seasons in the National Football League, Zbikowski has established himself as a steady role player both behind future Hall of Fame S Ed Reed on the defensive side of the football and as a steady contributor to the team’s Special Teams unit. Zbikowski even made six defensive starts in 2010 while Reed began the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Jones made just two game appearances as a rookie in 2010. If and when the NFL finally begins the 2011 season, he will still be looking for his first career tackle. While he was an accomplished amateur wrestler at Union-Endicott High School in New York, he has never participated in a sanctioned MMA contest.
And while Zbikowski has stated multiple times that boxing was his first love, Jones is very aware that his most important work is done on football fields.
“The NFL pays well, better then MMA does as of right now. Your mind wanders from time to time but you just have to remember, ‘what’s my real job?’”
The elder Jones may be aware that football should be his priority, but his superstar brother said his interest in MMA has been evident as the two train together in New Mexico.
“He’s helped my training out so much” Jon said in an interview with Nelson Tuesday on AM1570 WNST. “I’m wrestling on a level that I was wrestling in at high school, and we’re getting into those scrambles that we used to. Just being around him, he’s a competitive guy and pushing me to a whole new level. I’m grateful to have him here for my training.”
While Zbikowski’s transition to boxing was particularly natural during the offseason, other NFL players have moved into arenas that have to be considered even more foreign than Jones’. Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Johnson is scheduled to participate in a tryout for MLS team Sporting Kansas City next week, while New York Jets (and former Ravens) LB Bart Scott has been involved with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) wrestling.
Certainly a move into the Mixed Martial Arts arena by Jones would be met with greater respect and appreciation.
Jones’ playing weight (313 pounds) is nearly 50 pounds heavier than Mixed Martial Arts’ heavyweight cap (265). As Jones would not want to cut so much weight ahead of football season, he would have to find a promotion that would allow him to fight at the 265 pound+ “Super Heavyweight” level.
Should such an opportunity present itself, Jones is well aware of why he could have a significant MMA future.
“I was a strong wrestler in high school, I was a two time state champion. Once you wrestle, you don’t forget the moves. I was big in freestlye and grecko, I think I shocked the guys to be so big and move as fast as I do. I’m just having fun right now, the sport is growing, and it’s growing more and more on me. At first I thought it was barbaric, two grown men locked in a cage fighting, beating each other up. But it’s more like art, it’s about technique and more than just punching someone.”
Unlike Zbikowski (who is a restricted free agent yet to sign his tender offer), the road would be a bit more difficult for Jones to step into a ring. Jon Jones told Nelson his older brother would have to receive clearance from the league to take a fight. Given the nature of the relationship between the league and the NFLPA right now, there is no certainty that such clearance would be given.
But if it were, the younger Jones believes his older brother could make a significant impact in the world of combat sports.
“I could see Art competing within a year and a half of training. He throws me around like a rag doll, and I’m in the UFC. If Arthur were to dedicate more time to mixed martial arts, I could see him competing at the highest level within a year and a half’s time.”
Jones at WNST’s June 2010 “Ravens Rookie Show”