Jon “Bones” Jones has just about cleaned out the light heavyweight division since becoming the youngest fighter to win a UFC championship when he captured his first belt at the age of 23 in 2011.
Now 32, he will make his 11th title defense at UFC 247 Saturday night in Houston when he takes on unbeaten Dominick Reyes. ESPN+ PPV will live stream the main card.
Jones (25-1, 1 NC) insists he isn’t looking past Reyes (12-0), but has hinted his next fight could be in the heavyweight division, in which Stipe Miocic reigns as a two-time champ.
“I’ve been going against heavyweights my whole life,” Jones said recently. “My brother is one of the best heavyweights in New York State wrestling history and I would wrestle him every day in high school. I’ve trained with many great heavyweights for years, so I’m very comfortable going against guys that are bigger and stronger than me.
“I guess all the questions I would have to answer is how am I going to do with the weight gain and all that type of stuff. There are just a lot of factors that I’m not familiar with that would probably motivate me.”
Jones has suggested he wouldn’t need a tune-up fight before challenging the heavy-fisted Miocic for his title. Former light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier moved up to heavyweight and beat Miocic by knockout in July 2018. Miocic then regained the title with a knockout in the rematch last August. Jones, meanwhile, has one official win over Cormier and another that was overturned when Jones failed a drug test.
Jones said he thinks he can handle Miocic, who is recovering from an eye injury suffered in his rematch with Cormier.
“I feel like I could totally beat him just based on his performances with DC, our speed differences, my fight IQ, my versatility, my faith and confidence,” Jones told ESPN. “I think I’m the guy to beat him for sure.”
Jones first has to
deal with Reyes, who has nine first-round knockouts with four of them coming in less than one minute. The main event will come after Valentina Shevchenko defends her UFC flyweight championship against Katlyn Chookagain.
Initially, Jones didn’t see much value in fighting Reyes until he studied his ability to finish his opponents and his unbeaten record.
“I really like the fact that he’s undefeated,” Jones said. “I think something special comes out in me when I fight guys who are undefeated. Dominick has an attitude of being superior, and it’s going to feel great to give him his first taste of defeat.”
This will be Jones’ fourth fight in 14 months, a consistency that recharged his career after a series of personal struggles between 2015 and 2017, when he was stripped of his title for disciplinary reasons. His infractions included an arrest on hit-and-run charges, substance abuse issues and a positive test for a banned substance. This will be his third title defense since regaining the belt in December 2018 with a TKO over Alexander Gustafsson. With plans to fight three times this year, Jones is offering a level of consistency that seemed uncertain when he was going through his struggles.
He said he underwent almost 30 drug tests with USADA in 2019 to prove he was clean.
“I know for a fact that no one has been drug tested as much as me,” Jones said. “People with things to hide, they don’t submit themselves to that level of drug testing. I think it will help with my vindication over time.”
Jones, who fights out of Albuquerque, N.M., is big business for the UFC and important to its partnership with ESPN. Conor McGregor’s return to the Octagon against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246 sold more than 1 million PPV buys, the first streaming event in history to reach seven figures. Furthermore, ESPN+ added 500,000 new subscribers. Jones, regarded as the UFC’s best pound-for-pound fighter, should bring additional subscribers.