We caught up with TJ Jones after his stint in the spotlight with Bellator.
TJ Jones won over the hearts of fans with his Bellator performance against Jake Hager AKA Jack Swagger. Jones seemed like an earnest guy who came in from a humble background and he gained a measure of sympathy from fans when Hager held on to the fight ending submission for way too long.
He’s looking to keep the train rolling as Jones competes again later this month. TJ is looking to collect some regional gold on July 20 when Garden Fights puts on a card. It’s been a wild ride for Tombstone in the last few months, for sure.
The Bellator pre-fight saga
Jones started to pick up infamy in MMA circles ahead of his Jake Hager bout. MMA fans initially thought TJ was one of them. In a widely spread meme, someone mentioned how TJ Jones looked like a fan when compared to some of his Bellator compatriots at that press conference. The beef plant worker quickly endeared himself to fans as they got to know more of his personality though.
When TJ came out dancing his heart out with “Old Town Road” blaring over the arena PA, he solidified his status among fans watching Bellator 221. Despite losing via arm triangle choke in the first round, TJ’s demeanor and spirited performance shone through. TJ Jones certainly noticed the shift in the wider scale public sentiment.
“I appreciate it so much. I’m definitely not taking anything for granted…..It definitely isn’t an act, man”
TJ Jones has been competing in various combat sports for over a decade and is finally breaking through in terms of public awareness. The metrics on his social media platforms are certainly indicative of that. All of a sudden chopping it up with guys like Chael Sonnen and Douglas Lima at the Bellator 221 after-party. Prolific martial artists who treated him with kindness and took the time to impart some wisdom too.
Jones has been working a lot of BJJ as of late. On the heels of his submission loss to Hager, Jones is working with Keith Welsh a fair bit on his grappling skills. Heading into the Jake Hager bout, there were interview clips (via Cageside Press) where Tombstone indicated he much preferred the stand up to submission grappling. The nature of his last loss has changed that sentiment and TJ has been hard at work to level up his BJJ and wrestling.
“I’ve been working with Joseph and Ramone. Sarah, Gloria, Eduardo…We’ll be continuing to work with the Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, and striking…If I can keep a fight standing, that’s ultimately what I want to do……but we have to work on everything and the bellator fight was an eye opener for that”
TJ Jones is happy with where he’s at, to a degree, but the goal is to get back to Bellator.
“My sole focus is getting back to Bellator. We’re listening to offers but we’re taking it one fight at a time now.”
There’s also some bolstering public sentiment around TJ Jones fighting JW Kiser. Kiser has called out Jones on social media and fans see it as logical matchmaking since both men were defeated by Jake Hager. They also seem to bring styles to the cage that could lend itself to being entertaining even beyond the narrative elements. All that being said, Jones has his sights firmly locked on the future.
The (Old Town) Road Ahead
Jones is an ambitious guy, though, and has been getting involved in endeavors beyond his own fighting efforts. Tombstone Management Clique is another endeavor that TJ has been getting going. TJ Jones has been using his recently growing profile to help out others. Tombstone is aiming to get fights for some up and coming pugilists.
TJ has even lined up some of his fighters for Shamrock FC bouts. Which is a promotion that has been a proven feeder league for Bellator. Jones hasn’t sustained many injuries so he’s been able to stay active and compete for multiple different promoters. This created a good networking rapport and is translating in good opportunities for his fighters.
Garden City, Jack Swagger, and Big Country
TJ isn’t overlooking his opponent on July 20 but he has fighters he would like to get in there with. Tombstone indicated interest in a Jake Hager rematch but he also wants to fight Roy Nelson. TJ verbalized that a commission probably wouldn’t sanction the fight with Nelson due to the disparity in experience. Jones isn’t afraid to shoot for the stars though and respectfully indicated a desire to get in the cage with Big Country.
“Roy Nelson is a legend. I don’t know how that would come about but I would definitely not say no… A Roy Nelson fight is on my mind. Anybody in Bellator is on my mind.”
For now, though, TJ has a few simple priorities. TJ has family, gym, and money on his mind in that order. TJ is looking forward to a lot of quality time with his family through the summer months. That being said, Jones also has his gaze firmly affixed on the Southwest Kansas Heavyweight Championship later this month.
This story is an ongoing one worthy of following. The epitaph has yet to be fully carved out on Tombstone.