It’s entirely possible that Jon Jones is the most promising young fighter in the sport of mixed martial arts at this moment of time, and there’s a growing sense that we may be watching the early stages of a genuine star being born.
At just 22 years of age, and with only two years fighting as a pro, he has already compiled a 10-1 record, with his only loss being a DQ due to the use of an illegal elbow in a fight he was dominating.
After another impressive win over experienced UFC campaigner Brandon Vera the tricky part now is deciding what to do next with this precocious talent. Is it unfair to push him into major fights this early in this career while he is still learning and honing his skills, or does his past performances prove that he can handle whoever and whatever the promotion throws at him?
UFC president Dana White has suggested that he wants to take things slowly with ‘Bones’, indicating that it may be another year or more before he’s in the hunt for a shot at the light-heavyweight belt.
For his next bout however it appears that Jones himself is looking for a bigger challenge.
“I’m predicting a fight against someone like Ryan Bader, but I really wouldn’t want to fight against Ryan,” Jones tells mmafighting.com in a new interview. “I think we’re pretty close to the same spot career-wise. I wouldn’t really want to fight someone who’s in the same category as me. I’d rather fight someone who’s really established, someone with a really big following, someone where there’s a big risk of me losing the fight. I want to try and elevate and make it to the top as fast as possible. I just want a fight with a lot of risk.”
Though the fighter is hesitant to call out anyone in particular he does suggest some potential opponents he’d like to face in the octagon.
“someone like Forrest [Griffin] or [Antonio Rogerio] Nogueira or Rich Franklin. Someone up there in the top five or top 10. Someone where a win would be really huge for my career.”
It’s interesting to see Jones showing enough confidence in his abilities to face experienced fighters like these, and to be fair, even at this stage in his career you certainly wouldn’t count him out against any of them.
I don’t think there’s any harm in the UFC’s current strategy of slowly building him up though as there’s no immediate rush. He’s got his whole career in front of him so it may well prove to be a wise decision to let him continue to hone his skills under the tutelage of Greg Jackson while taking on progressively more challenging opponents in the octagon.
Holding off will also help to build his reputation amongst the fans as well, which is important too. For example, if you threw him into a title fight right now people would be interested but it wouldn’t necessarily be a huge PPV event.
If he continues to impress over an extended period of time though then I think the hype surrounding him will really build to a fever pitch, and that will be the time to let him loose against the best the division has to offer.