Jon Jones should be the most popular fighter on the UFC roster. He’s a world champion, puts on exciting fights, and is among the most active fighters in the company. Yet, every time we try to find a reason to cheer for Jones, he finds a new way for fans to completely jump off the bandwagon.

His most recent mishap came when the UFC light heavyweight champion spoke to Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting about appearing on the cover of the new EA Sports-UFC game. I’ll present what Jones said as a whole first, prior to breaking down how Jones’ “MMA math” just doesn’t add up.

“I wanna see [Alexander Gustafsson] fight a top contender,” Jones said. “Seems like these guys are not really having the toughest time to get to the belt. [Glover] Teixeira goes from [Ryan] Bader to a championship fight. Gustafsson went from ‘Shogun’ [Mauricio Rua to a championship fight. I feel like they save all the dogs for me and they just give the toughest guys the easiest match-ups to get to a title shot. Let’s see some of these top contenders fight each other.”

Keep in mind this was before Gustafsson’s original opponent, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, was pulled from the fight.

“I was like ‘Really? You want him to have the rematch that bad?’ No disrespect to Nogueira, but let’s see Gustafsson versus Cormier,” Jones continued. “It makes so much sense. Me, Cormier, Gustafsson and Teixeira, the top four guys in the division. Let’s put us all in a little round-robin pool and see who is the toughest out of us four. Why throw ‘Little Nog’ into the picture? But whatever, I’m gonna fight the toughest one anyway.”

So let’s examine the first part of Jones’ argument, that he gets all the tough fights while his challengers get the gimme match-ups.

Jones says he wants to see Gustafsson fight a top contender. Well, according to the official UFC rankings, Nogueira is a top-five light heavyweight. Now, whether he belongs up that high is debatable, but the fact remains that it was the highest ranked opponent that Gustafsson could’ve faced.

The next problem he has is that Teixeira is getting a title shot after knocking out Bader. It wasn’t that long ago that Jones fought Bader himself, then fought for the title in his very next fight. Suddenly, it’s okay for Jones to use Bader as a stepping stone, but not Teixeira?

Jones then has an issue with Gustafsson getting a title shot after beating Shogun, which is strange since Jones has fought the Brazilian as well. If Jones gets all the tough fights, Shogun included, wouldn’t Gustafsson beating Rua be impressive enough for the champion?

The best notion (or outlandish claim) that Jones gives off is that he’s had the toughest fights of all inside the Octagon compared to his title challengers. Looking at Jones’ run to a title shot, one can see that it’s filled with a number of guys who could barely grasp onto the label of a gatekeeper in the division.

Andre Gusmao, the man Jones fought in his UFC debut, has a record of just 6-3, with two of those wins coming over the same guy. There was Stephan Bonnar, who has never been relevant in the light heavyweight title picture. There was Jake O’Brien, who went 4-3 inside the Octagon and notched his biggest win against an over-the-hill Heath Herring. There was Brandon Vera, who is the model of inconsistency and has one win—a highly questionable, at that—in the last four years. There was also a win against MMA veteran Vladimir Matyushenko, a guy who has struggled to maintain, let alone surpass, the level of gatekeeper. Then came Bader, followed by the championship bout.

Although Jones did have an impressive streak of finishes and performances on his road to a title shot, it’s clear that Jones faced very little in the way of stiff competition prior to taking the UFC belt. Even his title shot was more a result of his teammate, Rashad Evans, withdrawing from a title fight, rather than a matter of earning it by beating Bader. The fight between Bader and Jones was a match-up of surging prospects, but it wasn’t considered a true No. 1 contender bout.

But what about Jones’ time as a champion?

Glancing over his opponents, you could take WWE superstar Randy Orton’s “legend killer” gimmick and slap it on Jones. Many of Jones’ title defenses have come against fighters who were well past their primes. Guys like Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Vitor Belfort, and even Evans to a certain extent were all past their glory days.

Rampage received his title shot after a questionable split decision win against Lyoto Machida and a snoozefest against Matt Hamill. Evans received his after an equally uninspiring performance against Phil Davis, and although he did have four wins in a row, none of them outside of his finish of Tito Ortiz were anything to write home about.

Fans could argue Belfort has found the fountain of youth (or the fountain of TRT), but Belfort is primarily considered a middleweight and was coming off wins against Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson in his fights before his short-notice bout with Jones.

Machida is still considered a top-ranked fighter these days, but it was hard to justify his claim at a title shot with a 1-2 record prior to facing the champion. Jones’ title defense against Chael Sonnen was nothing more than a PR/pay-per-view buyrates stunt (that failed miserably), considering Sonnen hadn’t competed in the light heavyweight division in years and was coming off a loss to Anderson Silva.

So, yes, Jones does have some merit in saying that a number of his opponents have had questionable fights prior to receiving their title shots. However, he completely ignores a number of items in diagnosing his status as“the guy that gets the hard fights.”

If the challengers are not worthy (by virtue of the easy fights before facing Jones), how can they be considered tough opponents for the champion? How can some of the guys Jones and his contenders have beaten not be worth the same? How is facing Teixeira, a guy who has one win over a top-10 opponent, any tougher than facing a man in a rematch who nearly defeated Jones in their first encounter?

“MMA Math” is always a loaded subject when it comes to fans, but it’s clear to see there’s a double standard at work here with the champion’s philosophy. It’s also pretty clear that Jones comes off as a spoiled brat (again) by attempting to make it out to seem like he’s had the toughest road traveled in the Octagon. It’s fine if he wants to nitpick at his challengers based on their resume leading up to their title opportunities, and he does have a point in some cases, but the champion should realize his own resume isn’t above reproach.

Photo: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones (Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.

  • Adam

    I have to commend you…Mr. Symes. You quite possibly wrote one of the most disingenuous and most flawed articles on Jon Jones, I’ve ever read. What I will do here is explain in very explicit and precise detail what is erroneous about your article:

    1. You made the claim that Jones says he wants to see Gustafsson fight a top contender and according to the official UFC rankings, Nogueira is a top-five light heavyweight. Then you formally admit that Nogueira’s ranking is debatable. That I highly agree…the official UFC rankings shouldn’t be considered reputable and I’ll explain why…the organization has it’s own agenda…the ranking system for the promotion serves as a means of creating a pseudo-objective example to promote the narrative that “the best fight the best.” In actuality, that’s not true: To this day you have: #2 ranked Alexander Gustafsson fighting unranked Jimi Manuwa, #3 ranked Rashad Evans fighting #10 ranked Chael Sonnen, and #4 ranked Phil Davis not fighting a single person. Other potential contenders like Daniel Cormier also surprisingly find themselves without opponents.

    2. You’re next statement I’ve had real qualms with is: “It wasn’t that long ago that Jones fought Bader himself, then fought for the title in his very next fight. Suddenly, it’s okay for Jones to use Bader as a stepping stone, but not Teixeira?” This is disingenuous in every way…where do I even begin? It wasn’t that long ago? It’s been almost 3 years…the dynamic of the division was vastly different from where it is today…6 of the current top 10 guys were unranked…Ryan Bader was undefeated and actually ranked adjacent to Jones. But that’s irrelevant in a way because the original plan was to allow the winner to just continue his ascension to the top…by no means was the intention to be a title eliminator, if your memory is a bit fuzzy…I’ll enlighten you. If you remember correctly…Jones took the fight on short notice. There was no one else who could take the fight at that moment…Quinton Jackson was already booked to fight Matt Hamill, Lyoto Machida was coming off a loss to the current champion, Rashad Evans was injured and the next best option was Jon Jones….that’s a bit different than just arbitrarily granting someone a title fight after beating the #8 ranked guy.

    3. Be far the most egregious statement in your article: “The best notion (or outlandish claim) that Jones gives off is that he’s had the toughest fights of all inside the Octagon compared to his title challengers.” What do you mean “gives off?” He never stated that he had the toughest fights before getting a shot at the title…he said that he’s noticing a trend that the top contenders in his division aren’t fighting each other and for the most part he’s right! Quinton Jackson had to beat unranked Matt Hamill, Lyoto Machida had to beat unranked Randy Couture, Rashad Evans had to beat #8 ranked Phil Davis, Chael Sonnen came off of a loss, Vitor Belfort last fight was against Anthony Johnson….a fight he did make weight in and the latest…Alexander Gustafsson having to fight #7 ranked Mauricio Rua. Out of his 6 title defenses…4 of them have been top 5 talent. Of the other 2, 1 was done on short notice, the other was done at fan request…Out of the 4 ranked in the top 5…none of them fought another top 5 opponent to get their shot at the title…2 of them fought unranked opponents! Let’s contrast that with Georges St. Pierre…we can just look at his next opponent…Johny Hendricks. Hendricks wasn’t granted a title shot despite the fact that he had knocked off 3 top 10 contenders wasn’t enough…he had to beat a 4th…another top 5 contender. Just to get a shot at Georges St. Pierre. It’s easy to ignore this when you want to.

    4. I take my last statement back…this is the most egrigious thing you’ve said: “Guys like Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Vitor Belfort, and even Evans to a certain extent were all past their glory days.”

    So, despite the fact that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was the undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion, the consensus #1 ranked fighter in his weight class and the best perceived fighter in his division….you still consider him past his glory days?

    Despite the fact that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was still in the top 5 in his weight class for a fucking year prior to fighting Jones…you still have the nerve to say he’s past his glory days?

    Despite the fact that Vitor Belfort is 9-2 in his last 11 fights, the only two losses being to Anderson Silva the pound 4 pound kingpin at the time and the other being to Jon Jones himself…despite the fact that all of those wins are by stoppage…you have the unmitigated audacity to say that he’s past his glory days?

    4. I’ll answer a question now: “If the challengers are not worthy (by virtue of the easy fights before facing Jones), how can they be considered tough opponents for the champion?”

    *Straw-man alert*
    Jon Jones never suggested this.

    What he said was that these top contenders aren’t fighting each other. Looking purely at time congruent witht their ranking…meaning….when they achieved top 5 status…Alexander Gustafsson has fought no one in the top 5 except Jones, Rashad Evans has fought no one in the top 5 except Jones, Glover Teixiera first top 5 fight will be against…guess who…Jon Jones. Look at other divisions…Chris Weidman had to at least beat a top 5 contender in Mark Munoz before getting a shot at Anderson Silva and Middleweight is historically always low on actually contenders, before getting a rematch with dos Santos…Cain Velasquez had to at least beat #3 ranked Antonio Silva before getting another shot. Jon Dodson had to virtual beat 2 of the top 4 (excluding himself and the Champion) before getting a title shot…noticing a pattern here? All Jon Jones suggested was that:

    A) There should be a harder road to the title than there is and
    B) other champions seemingly don’t have to deal with that…both of those are demonstrable facts!!!!

    I’m done.

    • Kyle Symes

      1. Gustafsson won’t fight Davis because they’re teammates… #3 Evans vs. #10Sonnen – What’s wrong with that? It’s impossible to always match up guys ranked right next to each other… I can’t comment on why Davis doesn’t have a fight booked and Cormier hasn’t even made it to 205 yet.

      2. Regardless of how he came into the title shot, Ryan bader was still the last guy Jones fought before a title shot. Do I think Teixeira has done enough to earn a title shot? No not really. But he has done just as much as Jones had done prior to facing Shogun.

      3. I’m not ignoring anything. Jones (and yourself apparently) want to critisize other fighters for not competing against enough top competitior before a title shot when he himself faced very little competition. You mean to tell me that wins over Vera, Matyushenko and Bader should get someone a title shot? Yes it was on short notice and that’s not Jones’ fault but he can’t bash on guys for getting fast tracked to a title shot when he himself was put in the express lane.

      4. Yes I will consider Shogun past his glory days. It’s pretty easy to see how much Shogun has declined since jumping over from Pride with the knee injuries. Yes he was a world champion but don’t confuse the UFC version of Shogun (you know the one that was tapped out by Forrest Griffin, huffed n puffed his way to a decision win against a dinosaur in Mark Coleman and is 2-3 since his fight with jones) with that of the one competing in Pride. Jackson is 7-5 in the UFC and was coming off a controversial loss to Machida and a lackluster fight against Hamil, not exactly the “Rampage” of old that was a human highlight reel. Talk to me when Belfort gets a fight without TRT.

      4b? Once again if Jones is suggesting there be a harder path to the title why is he forgetting about the level of competition he faced before getting a title shot? I agree with you that some of the match making in the UFC is not logical based on the rankings but you can’t have #2 vs. #3 , #4 vs. #5 etc. every time out. The UFC isn’t going to lose the majority of their rising contenders by matching them up with one another. That’s why they avoided making Cain-JDS when both guys were coming up; they set it up for a future date and made a lot more money in the process.

      You make it out to seem like Jones faced a murder’s row of opponents. He had just as easy of a trip up the ladder as most of his contenders that he’s faced. You want to complain about how Jones doesn’t deal with things other champions do; how about immediate rematches? The fight with Gus was extremely close yet Jones is facing teixeira, not Gustafsson. The lightweight division featured a number of close fights in a row along with immediate rematches. Shogun was granted an immediate rematch after his close fight with Machida. So why not Gustafsson?

      Thanks for the reading and taking the time to reply. Come back soon! :)

    • Tedjo

      100% Agree with you man

    • JonesSkillsAreOverrated

      You want to take Jones’ wiener out of your mouth, so you can form an unbiased coherent logical argument? Everything the writer stated was true. Deal with it, Jones fangirl.

  • ERICK

    I agree with Bones 100%! So Kyle put the crack pipe down!The only skewed math here is yours!

  • david

    “It wasn’t that long ago that Jones fought Bader himself, then fought for the title in his very next fight. Suddenly, it’s okay for Jones to use Bader as a stepping stone, but not Teixeira?”

    That’s likes saying beating Chris Leben now means as much as when Anderson did when he was 5-0 in the UFC.

    Um no, it doesn’t, in fact.

  • JonesSkillsAreOverrated

    So this guy writes an excellent article & he’s already got multiple Jones wiener suckers on here talking dumb crap? God… Jones’ diehard delusional little fangirls are THEE worst fans in all of MMA. Period.