In the course of his next two fights, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones believes his legacy as the greatest of all time will be firmly cemented.
During an interview with ESPN, Jones laid out a reasonable case for why he’ll be considered the GOAT, and discussed a possible jump to the heavyweight division. He described a two-step process that began with last year’s decision over Alexander Gustafsson and ends with Jan. 3’s matchup against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 in Las Vegas.
"I'm right around the corner," Jones said. "I need to finish the race, and the race, for me, is [Cormier] and Alexander.
"As far as being the greatest of all time, I think me beating Gustafsson and DC -- how do you argue that? The argument is just gone, you know what I mean? I do believe I have the best résumé in the sport's history. I don't think anyone has beaten as many [former] champions as I have. To go on what I've already done and beat DC and Gustafsson? I just think no matter who your favorite is, you can't deny I'm the best in the game."
Blemishing the undefeated Cormier, according to Jones, would complete his run in the division even if new comers surface every year, while presenting a sensible time to take the next step in his already stellar career.
"Those two fights and I would consider the division cleared and that's when you entertain superfights," Jones said. "I've been training with heavyweights for years now. I know I would do really good against them, and that would be the next chapter."
Though Jones has his detractors, it’s difficult to pick apart his argument. Since moving up to the UFC ranks in 2008, the 27-year-old has racked up victories over such top contenders and former champions like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans. Jones has also defended his title seven consecutive times.
Furthermore, whether it’s the octagon or the ring, any professional fighter is measured as much by his record as by how he beats his opponents. With a 20-1 record, nine of Jones’s wins have come via knockout, six by submission and he’s gone the distance five times.
Of course, Jones’s campaign for greatness could come crashing down against Cormier. Jones certainly has age on his side, with Cormier eight years his senior, but the latter’s lethal combination of strength, speed and overall technique can be compared Jones’s.
Assuming he can dispatch Cormier, Jones mentioned his first potential superfight could be against reigning, but injured, heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. Jones ruled out any talk of matching up against current GOAT-title holder Anderson Silva, but Jones called a bout against Velasquez a challenge he’s willing to take on.
"[Velasquez] would be a hell of a fight, man. It would be a fight of my life,” he said. “That's what it's about, though. I've been in one of those fights where I'm bleeding and I'm exhausted and it's not fun to be a part of. The Gustafsson fight -- [that isn't] not fun. I'd be willing to do that for the right champion, though, and the fans."
Jones is not the only high-profile fighter drawing attention this week. During two different interviews, former welterweight champion and legend in his own right Georges St-Pierre didn’t rule out a return to the octagon, but also stipulated that anyone he faced would need to undergo rigorous and random drug testing.
"People ask me, 'Are you coming back?' I just don't know,” the 33-year-old Montreal native said to MMA Canada. “Right now, I just came back from a knee injury, I took a break, had the knee injury, just came back from rehab. It's time for me to enjoy my life. Training, do it for fun. We'll see. I need some time."
St-Pierre injured his left knee and took some time away from the sport after squeezing out a decision over Johny Kendricks in November of last year. The time off cost St-Pierre his title, which went to Hendricks following his victory over Robbie Lawler back in March.
In October, UFC president Dana White announced that St-Pierre’s knee was medically cleared, but earlier this week St-Pierre placed a serious roadblock in front of his return.
“If I ever come back and fight again, (random drug testing) is mandatory,” he said to MMAJunkie. “I’ll do it for myself and for my opponent. I will pay for it. I don’t mind. If the other guys in the sport don’t want to be tested, that’s fine. But for me and my opponent, it’s mandatory.”
St-Pierre also said he wished he spoke out about performance-enhancing drugs in the sport sooner, but that he didn’t have the clout or financial security to do so. Now he hopes any future fight will be “clean.”