Jon Jones on UFC Matchup with Vitor Belfort: It’s “a Phenom Versus Another Phenom.”
By Tom Taylor
There was nothing but respect between UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and his upcoming opponent Vitor Belfort during UFC 152’s media conference call yesterday. Any fans who were salivating over the thought of the trash talk that would ensue if Chael Sonnen had been awarded a title shot will have to wait.
Furthermore, the champion and UFC president Dana White have been at odds over the recent cancellation of UFC 151, but both parties are now eager to sit down together and talk things out. While past UFC conference calls have been dramatic and brash, the theme of UFC 151’s was respect and diplomacy.
Despite not having many chances to watch Belfort’s fights prior to being matched up with him, Jones says he respects Belfort as a fellow Christian.
“I got to watch him fight live when he fought against Anthony Johnson,” said Jones.
“I was very impressed with him actually. I sat right next to his dad and had a great conversation the whole time. So I got to watch him fight in Brazil, live, and before that my only real recollection of him was his fight against Wanderlei Silva when he got that really fast knockout.
“And then his fight with Anderson Silva; we fought the same night that night, so that was another time I really got to focus in on him. Outside of that I’ve never really paid attention to him outside of the fact that’s he’s Christian and I just respect him so much for being so outspoken about his love for Christ.”
Jones believes that, despite debate among fans as to Belfort’s legitimacy as an opponent, they will be able to sell the card and put on a great fight.
“I think it’s going to be great and I think a lot of people are going to get together and watch this fight. You know, Vitor Belfort is respected amongst many people. He’s one of the most famous people to come out of Brazil, athlete-wise, and I think that could be somewhat true.
“So Brazil, I’m sure they’re going to tune in. They love him. And Americans are going to tune in; I mean he pertains to the old generation of martial arts fans and the new generation of martial arts fans. And right now, there’s a lot of buzz around my name, whether it’s good or bad, and I think between those two factors people will tune in to watch a phenom versus another phenom.” Jones’s opponent, Belfort, echoed the same sentiments, saying that at this stage in his career, stepping up to fight an opponent like Jones was a no-brainer. Belfort was preparing to lock horns with Alan Belcher in Brazil, but could not resist the urge to challenge Jones.
“I trained two weeks into my camp [for the Belcher fight] and then when I saw the cancellation, and I see a lot of buzz on twitter, guys disrespecting each other, and everyone sells the fight however they want, but when I saw that I felt sorry for the fans, and I texted Lorenzo [Fertitta] and Dana [White] at the same time, and said ‘guys, if you need someone [I’ll take the fight.]’ I knew it had to make sense for Jon Jones to fight someone for the title. I know his position. He’s young; he’s the best guy in that weight division, the new breed. Guys in this era, it’s a different mentality. As an old school guy, I said ‘if you need me to go there, I’ll do it.’ I have a different mentality than anybody else. I’m enjoying this journey. Now I fight not for the fame, not for the money, not for the position, but I fight for the pleasure. It’s a joy.”
“When I was 19 years old, winning a tournament in the UFC, Jon Jones was nine years old then. I never thought in my life I would be able to fight a guy like Jon Jones.” “I used to fight on the same cards as Dan Severn and Mark Coleman. I’m like a young dinosaur. I’m an old lion in the midst of these young lions, so I’m just enjoying this jungle. So for me, I just want to thank God every day for letting me still surf that wave and compete at a high level.” Despite their mutual respect and shared passion for religion, neither man believes their faith will ensure them a win.
“I don’t believe God gives me an advantage over my opponents at all. I think God could care less about a UFC fight. What I do believe is that God helps me live a certain life. I’m constantly seeking Christ and constantly trying to develop a stronger relationship with Christ. I’m trying to constantly grow closer to Christ. I believe that my relationship with Christ helps me live a better life than I think most 25-year-olds would be living. Right now I have the option of doing whatever I want, when I want, and be friends with who I want. I know it sounds a little taboo to people who don’t live this type of lifestyle, but I live a pretty crazy life and I really think if I didn’t have Christ in my life, I’d be a hot mess,” said Jones. “There are football players that are Christians that play on different teams, Christians compete against each other all the time. I don’t think God has any type of favorite in this fight, I just think God just blessed me and Vitor to be in the position that we are. We’re both famous and successful and I think that’s blessing enough. I think the winner of this fight is going to be the person who trains hard enough, the person who studies more, so I don’t feel like there’s any contradiction like, ‘oh who’s God going to come through for.’ I think God has already come through for both of us.” Again, Belfort agreed, crediting Jones for a “very good answer.”
“Jesus only expects one thing from every Christian. He wants you to do your best, and I’m doing my best, man,” said Belfort. “I don’t believe Christianity is a religion. Christianity is a relationship. Me and Jones, we are brothers in Christ. That’s our job, we are fighters, and I have such respect for a man like him,” he continued.
The mutual admiration shared by champion and challenger was abundant. Both are Christian, and both excelled to the elite level at a very young age. Still, both men will be gunning for a win on September 22 in Toronto.
“I’m just focusing on the process. I’m not worry about what people say and what people think, I don’t care. It doesn’t make any sense for me. People have different mentalities but I’m gonna go there with the mentality to do my best and that’s the only thing I can do,” said Belfort. While the toughest part of Jones’s visit to Toronto will be his title fight with Belfort, he also has some wrinkles to iron out with UFC president Dana White. He says he plans to bury the hatchet with White while in Toronto.
“I’m over it man. I really am. I’m actually getting more and more excited to talk to Dana and get this behind us. The UFC is an awesome brand. In this situation I had to stand up for myself and do what was right, but at the same time, me having a personal beef with Dana gets me nowhere. He’s still my boss and at the end of the day and he has every right to express how he feels. He has freedom of speech,” said Jones. “Me and Dana are on the same team. It’s going to get us very far, me as an individual athlete and the UFC having a mainstream athlete trying to break down walls in mainstream America. I can’t do that having a problem with the UFC. So I’m totally over it and ready to talk to Dana.” White, who was only available to partake in the beginning of UFC 152’s conference call, agreed with Jones, and hopes to meet with the light heavyweight in Toronto.
“Jon and I haven’t seen each other yet since that whole thing. We’ll see each other in Toronto. He and I need to get into a room face-to-face and talk. I’ve been in this business for about twelve years and I’ve dealt with just about everyone you can deal with; good guys, bad guys. Jon Jones isn’t a bad guy.”