TJ Jones did his part to promote what was eventually a losing effort at Bellator 221. But he came out of the fight looking like the better man, and thinks it’s crazy his pre-fight hype got to a “WWE guy.”
Chicago, IL — In a rather bizarre turn of events, TJ Jones went from unknown, to internet famous (at least in the MMA world) seemingly overnight on Saturday. And despite losing the battle against Jack Swagger (or Jake Hager, if you prefer not to use the ex-WWE star’s ring name), he might have won the war. Or at least, extended his fifteen minutes of fame.
Jones, now 1-2 as a professional MMA fighter, was the unlikely opponent brought in to face Swagger/Hager in the latter’s sophomore bout at Bellator 221 in Chicago on Saturday. Jones didn’t have a chance to show much offense, ending up taken down and eventually submitted. But he danced to the ring, was generally a good sport about it, and came off as a nice guy.
You might go so far as to label him the “face” to Jack Swagger’s “heel.” Especially when Swagger initially refused to let go of the choke. The Chicago crowd, who decided to get behind Jones, voiced their displeasure following the bout. Swagger was showered in boos.
Jones seemed to love the experience as a whole, if not the finish. “Once in a lifetime. Absolutely. Very blessed,” he told reporters including Cageside Press post-fight. Blessed certainly given that Bellator CEO Scott Coker is considering bringing Jones back for another fight.
— Scott Coker (@ScottCoker) May 12, 2019
“I saw that, and I actually got a chance to talk to him. Hopefully he’ll get with my manager, Chris Gregory, and we’ll work something out,” Jones said of the prospect. With six kids, the meat plant worker likely won’t take much convincing.
When it comes to the finish against Swagger at Bellator 221, Jones stated plainly exactly what many fans were no doubt thinking Saturday night. “My biggest thing is, when the ref goes to pull you off, let go,” he said. “I understand I talk a lot, and I understand the emotions can get kind of high. But you have to be professional. After the fight, you have to shake my hand, give me a hug, say ‘hey, good fight buddy.'”
“You know, he didn’t do that. He tried to hurt me more,” Jones said. “This sport’s dangerous. You gotta be very smart, you gotta care about your opponent’s health. I care about his health. You don’t want to see stuff like that. And that got to me a little bit.”
Jones didn’t seem to fully buy Swagger’s explanation as to why he held on to the choke. “He spoke to me after, and he said that he thought I was trying to hit him. But you know, the ref is clearly trying to pull you off.”
There’s no hard feelings, however. “But maybe my talking got to him just a little bit. Which is crazy, because he’s the WWE guy.”
Asked whether he was over the line with his trash talking pre-fight (he wasn’t, frankly), Jones said that “I don’t think I was. I just wanted to remind him and everybody that he is only 1-0, and I’m 1-1, and in the world of MMA, we might be a little bit closer than people are giving us credit for.”
“You know, tonight he proved he was better, and absolutely I take every hat I have off to him,” Jones admitted. However, “after the fight’s over, once I tap out, once the ref pull’s you off, get off me.”
In spite of the controversial finish, Jones wanted no part of a DQ. “He beat me. I didn’t want the disqualification win. I’d prefer him get the victory.”
Jones’ walkout turned a lot of heads Saturday night. Busting a move or two on the way out to the Bellator cage certainly made an impression with fans. “I dance to every single fight I have,” he said back stage. “And that’s just because life’s a dance. You’ve got to enjoy every minute of it. You’ve got to enjoy the good, you’ve got to enjoy the bad. Because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Jones certainly is enjoying his moment in the spotlight. “I’ve gotten insane messages from people from like Ireland and Australia and actually one from Germany, like ‘hey we’re behind you.’ That’s amazing, yeah for sure,” he told reporters. “I got a Twitter finally, my manager’s been bugging me about getting a Twitter. And I finally got one. I had ten followers this morning, and I figured out how to look at how many I have now, it’s like 800.”
Should Bellator indeed give him another fight, he won’t have to undertake the insane weight loss he did for the Swagger fight. “I promise you, I promise you I will never be over 300lbs again. Unless I’m like 80 years old and I just want McDoubles all day.”
Watch the full Bellator 221 post-fight press scrum with TJ Jones above!