Fans want UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to make the move to heavyweight, but should he?
This is not about whether Jon Jones should move to heavyweight to improve his chances at being considered the Greatest of All Time. GOAT conversations are growing stale, and to some, Jones will never be in the conversation because of his repeated scandals and drug test failures anyway.
No, there’s a question as to whether there’s a need for Jones to move up, simply based on his performances, and that state of the light heavyweight division.
Jones is 32, about to exit his prime, but still competing at the highest level. He’s faced a murderer’s row of opponents, and while he has shown weakness, he’s yet to be defeated — excluding an early career DQ against Matt Hamill. A no contest mars his record, against Daniel Cormier, but that’s all. Outside of the aforementioned scandals anyway (and that no contest was a result of one).
Friday morning in Houston, Jones hit the scales less than halfway through the weigh-in window, looking comfortable. He weighed in at 204lbs, under the championship limit for light heavyweight. While wearing a hat.
While weight cuts are never fun, Jones always seems to have his under control. Nor is he as massive for 205lbs as some make him out to be. Yes, he’s tall and long, but spindly. His legs, so often mocked by fans (as chicken legs and the like), look a world away — or at least a weight class away — from the tree trunks the likes of Mark Hunt shuffle around on.
There’s a question as to whether Jones could survive with the heaviest of heavyweights. It’s a fair question. But not exactly a pressing one. Small fighters have found success against the big men before, after all. Fedor Emelianenko comes to mind. Gegard Mousasi owns wins over Mark Hunt and Gary Goodridge.
Jones, of course, seems confident he can best current heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic. Late last year, he revealed he’d been pursing the bout. The UFC instead opted to schedule Miocic vs. DC 3. He reiterated his desire ahead of UFC 247, speaking to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani.
“I feel like I really wanna fight Stipe Miocic. I feel like I could beat him,” Jones said. “I don’t think I would need a tune up. I’m pretty tuned up. I feel great and strong already, I think Stipe is what, 230? Me at a lean 230 is plenty, I could totally beat him just based on his performances with [Daniel Cormier].”
He might be right, but it’s not the weight alone that’s the issue. With UFC double-champs failing to defend their second titles, there’s little point. Unless Jones plans on stalking the heavyweight division long-term, and that feels like a decidedly bad idea, why bother? He’s already alluded to the fact that the GOAT conversation is more of a fan-thing. “At the end of the day, to be considered the best, it’s always going to be an opinion,” he said earlier this week. And Miocic, 230 or not, is far from the largest heavyweight. Besides which, 205lbs is not cleaned out just yet.
Jones touched on that subject at this week’s UFC 247 Athlete Panel, when asked why he chose Dominick Reyes as his current opponent. “If I’m not going to go heavyweight, I’ve got to fight the guy that everyone thinks can win,” said Jones. “And I think [Reyes] is the next guy that people think can win.”
There was another name, however, that Jones brought up. “Everyone was really excited about Johnny Walker for a while, and he got derailed by Corey Anderson.” Jones has attempted to dismiss Anderson in the past, and did again this week, arguing that “he doesn’t really finish people. He did finish Johnny, but he’s not a finisher.” However, shortly after UFC 247 the octagon will head to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. When it does, Anderson will be right in Jones’ back yard, facing Jan Blachowicz in the main event. A statement win there, and it would be hard to deny ‘Overtime’ the next title shot.
There’s also reason to believe Anderson would have a chance. Jones has looked mortal recently. While his title defense against Anthony Smith was nothing to write home about, he was really pushed by Thiago Santos last summer. ‘Bones’ may have out-grinded arch-nemesis Cormier, but Anderson is a decade younger than DC.
If Anderson falls, there’s always the chance Walker bounces back. Or that another name emerges. Jiri Prochazka recently signed with the UFC, and will enter the organization on an 11-fight win streak dating back to 2015. For the past couple years, he has been considered the best light heavyweight not competing in the UFC or Bellator.
The GOAT debate? Who cares, really. But with ample contenders and little upside outside that meaningless talking point, maybe Jones is better off cementing his legacy as the best 205lb’er to ever walk the planet. Asterisk or not.
All this matters not if Jon Jones falls to Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 (which would also necessitate sticking around at 205lbs, for an obvious rematch). Either way, Jones might be better off staying put for the time being.