Jon Jones overcame a very tough opponent in Thiago Santos at UFC 239, narrowly escaping with a split decision victory.
Las Vegas, NV – Jon Jones came one scorecard away from losing his light heavyweight title in the UFC 239 main event. Thiago Santos gave it his all, even after injuring his knee in the first round. However, the story after the fight focused on the performance of Jones rather than the toughness of Santos.
“It would be disrespectful to Thiago and his great team to say that this was a subpar performance. I met a fighter who came game. He’s a black belt in Muay Thai. He’s been doing it for a long time. I fought him where he is comfortable. As a result, I have sore feet and sore legs, but I’m very grateful I came out on top.”
It’s safe to say Jones has never fought an opponent quite like Thiago Santos, and Jones elected to fight him where his opponent is strongest, as he has done throughout his career.
“He’s extremely powerful. His kicks were powerful. His punches were powerful. I wanted to play a smart game. It probably would have been a lot smarter to get him to the ground and test him there. But I felt like I was winning at what he is absolutely best at. I feel like his team had him ultimately prepared. His cardio was great, his punches and kicks were great. I feel like that was his best. I found a way to win on the feet at what he’s absolute best at. In a rematch, if that were to happen, I’d obviously need to make some adjustments and make smarter choices, maybe attack him where he’s a little weaker. But I am proud because his kickboxing and his standup is what he’s known for. I faced it head-on for 25-minutes and I found a way to come out on top.”
A big turning point in the fight came very early on, when Santos suffered a knee injury. Jones gave his thoughts on it.
“I feel like in the first round he kicked me and I checked the kick. I feel like maybe he hurt his foot, but I haven’t seen any injury reports.” Jon was then informed of the knee injury and responded with, “Oh wow, I didn’t know his knee was hurt at all. I figured he maybe he hurt his foot. It’s good to know it was his knee.”
Jones has yet to be truly defeated in 27 career fights. When the scorecard was being read, his career of dominance nearly hit its first in-cage roadblock.
“I was like, ‘Please, not like this.’ I was confident I won the fight. My coaches wouldn’t lie to me. They said, ‘Jon, we feel like you won every round.’ So I was just extremely grateful. To have a fight like that is extremely humbling. It drives me to study more, work harder, and take the game even more seriously. It was a good warning for me tonight.”
Jones rolled up to the press conference in a wheelchair, and detailed his ailments.
“Right now, my feet are hurt. Both shins are swollen. But nothing’s injured, things just hurt. And that’s what you get when you stand with a Muay Thai black belt, you’re going to have a lot of shin and feet colliding. It’s a small price to pay for this great victory.”
At the end of the day, Thiago Santos did more than enough to gain the respect of Jon Jones at UFC 239.
“Honestly, I’d have to say he’s the most powerful guy I’ve ever fought. I blocked almost all of his face punches. I think maybe two of them actually landed on me. Boy, he knocked my mouthpiece out. Even when I was blocking, he was making my defense rock side to side. Very powerful. I think Thiago represented his team and his country so well. I wish nothing but the best for Thiago. I think when he gets back to Brazil, people need to give him a parade or do something special for him. He should be very very proud of himself. He handled defeat like a man. He came up and gave me a hug and said, ‘Sorry for some of the negative things I said about you before the fight.’ And that was something I wasn’t expecting. Then, ‘Whenever you come down to Rio, I’m taking you out.’ I was like, ‘I would definitely party with you Thiago.’ He was cool. My type of guy.”
Check out the rest of Jon Jones’ UFC 239 press conference above!