This weekend light heavyweight Jon Jones will enter the Octagon at UFC 152 as a long-standing UFC champion and legitimate superstar. However, nearly four years ago exactly, Jones was a lanky 205er making his debut on the undercard of UFC 87.
Jones recently took a look back at his career and the journey he’d taken from an amateur wrestler to promotional poster-boy, recalling his mindset entering a number of his early bouts under the UFC banner.
“I was just a new kid in the game,” said Jones of his 2008 bout with Andre Gusmao. “I was training in a garage at the time. I got the fight on three weeks’ notice and trained my butt off.”
Rather than ease him into the division, the UFC decided to put Jones up against veteran competitor Stephan Bonnar in his follow-up fight. At that point Bonnar had established himself as a strong presence at 205 pounds after a high-profile performance against Forrest Griffin at the Ultimate Fighter Finale, wins over Keith Jardine-James Irvin, and the momentum of a different two-fight winning streak entering the bout.
“Everybody in my life was like, ‘Dude, you’re fighting the American Psycho?’ So I was really nervous about that fight as well,” Jones admitted.
Of course, come Saturday night when he faces Vitor Belfort in hopes of retaining his title for the fourth consecutive time it’s unlikely he experience the same uneasiness as he did years ago, another testament to how far he’s come. “Bones” is now 16-1 with his only loss involving a disqualification and victories against a number of elite athletes including multiple former champions.
Check out Jones’ rise through the ranks below:
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC