Fresh from dispatching former Olympic wrestler Daniel (DC) Cormier via unanimous decision at UFC 182, light-heavyweight Jon (Bones) Jones said living year-round in his training base of Albuquerque, N.M., will take him to the next level.
Previously, the 27-year-old would return home to Ithaca, N.Y, after a fight, hang out with his friends, play video games, develop a "big gut" and be a full-time dad. Training was put on hold until the next challenger came along.
That's about to change.
"Now that I live in Albuquerque, it's going to be huge. This next fight is going to be something else," Jones said Saturday night. "I'm going to get right back to strength and conditioning. I'm going to actually start working towards a black belt in jiu-jitsu and I get to work at things.
"I'm so excited for this development and for this maturity that I'm getting ready to start going through — training in the off-season. Expect whoever I fight next to have their hands full ... 2015 will be my best year."
That declaration should send chills through every light-heavyweight and more than a few elite heavyweights. Jones (21-1) is close to cleaning out the 205-pound division as it stands now.
Next up will be either No. 1 contender Alexander (The Mauler) Gustafsson or No. 3 Anthony (Rumble) Johnson, who meet Jan. 24 in Stockholm.
Jones has already beaten Gustafsson, at UFC 165 in Toronto in September 2013. The two were due to meet again in 2014 but the Swede was injured, opening the door to No. 2 Cormier.
There are few name fighters left in the top 15 of the 205-pound division, leading to thoughts that the six-foot-four Jones might try his hand at heavyweight.
"I would fight (heavyweight champion) Cain Velasquez in a heartbeat," he said, referring to Cormier's teammate at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.
"Fighting a heavyweight would be surely to entertain the fans. It would have to be against a perfect opponent," he added.
Sounding less than convinced when asked about Jones' future challenges at 205 pounds, UFC president Dana White said new opponents always pop up.
Now the discussion starts on where Jones first in the UFC's all-time pantheon, with former middleweight champion Anderson Silva and ex-welterweight title-holder Georges St-Pierre generally considered as the top two.
"It's just so hard for me because Jon Jones is so young and has so many more things to accomplish but he's beat the Who's Who, he's cleaned out the division, he's breaking records," said White. "And if this continues, yeah, (he's) probably the greatest ever."
Jones spoke all week of his respect for Silva and GSP. But after the fight, he made a case for himself, saying all he has to do is to stay focused and keep working to become the greatest ever.
"With all due respect, I believe that I've had the toughest resume in the history of this sport. I've fought so many amazing athletes. So many times people thought I was going to lose."
Jones' legacy is already part of the UFC record book.
His eight successful title defences are the most in light-heavyweight division and third best in all weight classes behind Silva (10) and St-Pierre (nine).
He has the most wins (15) at 205 pounds and has ruled the division (1,387 days as of Sunday) longer than anyone else.
Plus his 12-fight win streak is the longest active run in the organization.
Perhaps most impressive is the list of fighters Jones has beaten along the way, including former champions Mauricio (Shogun) Rua, Quinton (Rampage) Jackson, Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort. He also beat Chael Sonnen, who fought for the title in two weight classes.
And Jones, whose weapons are diverse given his height and 82-inch wingspan, has beaten them different ways. He can win a dog-fight or chop you down from distance in a technical matchup. And when he gets opponents to the ground, he has sent them to hospital.
"He's a young stud, that's for damn sure," said lightweight Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone, who trains with Jones.
On Saturday night, Jones outwrestled the Olympic wrestler by three takedowns to one and beat Cormier in the clinch. Cormier (15-1) had stuffed all takedown attempts in his previous four UFC fights.
"We're the King of the grind," Jones said later, using the slogan Cormier wore on his "T-shirt" all week
Jones, a former junior college wrestling champion who gave up an NCAA scholarship to Iowa when he became a father, admitted he had a chip on his shoulder with the wrestling community throwing its support behind Cormier.
While he continues to win in the cage, the champion seems to have become comfortable in his own skin outside it. Despite his exploits, fans are mixed when it comes to Jones who in the past seems to have had trouble telling his story — which combines his Christian faith with a definite edge.
Now he is willing to be himself, unconcerned if it means playing the villain at times. Jones now carries himself with a definite swagger, which he has backed up time and again in the cage.
"Fighting tough scary dudes is what I do," he said. "A lot of people said 'Jon, you seem more calm and relaxed and just having fun more than ever.' I've accepted my job, I accept that it's not going to be easy. But I know that I have the cardio to last. And as long as I don't get knocked out, I'm going to be there in your face, no matter what you do to me, fighting you back for 25 minutes.
"So it's almost like accepting death. Once you're not afraid of death any more, you can have just kind of have fun and do your thing. That's where I'm at in MMA."
Jones was relaxed enough before Saturday's fight to greet fans and sign autographs in the arena. He said later that he had been feeling cold and a little flat, so he wanted to feed off their energy.
He is also comfortable engaging with opponents outside the cage. The bad blood between Jones and Cormier, dating back to their first meeting, has been palpable for months.
While Jones initiated touching gloves before the fight and before the fifth round and said later he respected Cormier as an athlete, he did not back off his criticism of his opponent afterwards.
"I don't like him. I still don't respect him. I'm glad he got what he got. Hopefully it will shut him up."
The 35-year-old Cormier, who wiped tears away in the post-fight news conference, was classy in defeat.
The five-foot-11 fighter was giving away five inches in height and 12 in reach but came right at Jones.
"One of the best first rounds I've ever seen in a title fight," said White.
While Cormier did well in the first three rounds, Jones proved to be just as prickly in the clinch and eventually took control of the fight.
Two of the judges gave Cormier the second round while one gave him the third as the fight was scored 49-46 for Jones.
Cormier spoke of Jones' championship mentality, his ability to counter-punch while backing away and the fact that he seemed even bigger in the cage out of it, with that size wearing him down.
"I pushed him and I went after him and I fought him and he did a great job," he said.
According to FightMetric, Jones won the significant strikes battle 92-58. Cormier had outstruck his four previous UFC opponents.
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