It’s become commonplace in the UFC to see champions change divisions to challenge another. Blame Conor McGregor if you’d like or blame any number of those who followed suit – from TJ Dillashaw to Daniel Cormier to Henry Cejudo. Whether you’re a fan of the superfight or not, it’s become the new norm and an undeniable part of the UFC’s culture.
Nevertheless, most fighters in line for a title shot in those divisions often are not as understanding. Do you think Glover Teixeira is happy to sit on the shelf at 41 years old while the middleweight champ makes a pit stop in his division? What flyweight wanted to be leap frogged by Cody Garbrandt, who had never made the weight (granted that fight never happened)?
The scenario is again about to play itself out at heavyweight as well, albeit it slightly differently with Jon Jones committing to his new division permanently. So one might think that the young heavyweights seemingly at the edge of a title shot may be miffed that they are being passed over, but somewhat surprisingly, that is not the case.
“Nah, for me, it doesn’t bother me at all,” said UFC Vegas 20 headliner Jairzinho Rozenstruik when asked about being possibly passed up in favor of Jones. “I mean, the man is one of the greatest of all-time and he was a champion. He leaves his light heavyweight division championship and then comes to heavyweight. I think it’s earned and he should get it, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”
His counterpart for this weekend’s main event, Frenchman Cyril Gane, shared a lot of those sentiments. However, in addition to being okay with the new pecking order and seemingly being delayed for his run to the title, Gane is downright excited about the arrival of Jones.
“I’m really excited about that. I can’t wait to see this guy in the heavyweight division,” Gane said. “And I saw his transformation and conditioning and I’m really excited and can’t wait to see that.”
But while they both hold no ill will towards Jones or the UFC for their decision, both have different reasons for their calm. For Rozenstruik, he feels that it is important for him to fight as many of the top heavyweights as part of his journey to becoming a legend in his own right, and that the longer period of time before a title shot doesn’t change that at all.
“That’s the goal for my career – I want to face everybody,” he said. “I want to fight so many times so that I can learn more. I want to face everybody and get better to be champion one day and stay champion until it’s time to retire.”
Gane on the other hand doesn’t feel any pressure to get to that title shot quickly because of the amount of time he has spent in the sport. Having made his pro debut just three years ago, Gane feels that it is silly to put pressure on himself to “prove something” or to “win a title shot”, because in the short time he has been in the sport, he’s already proven he’s there and it’s just a matter of time.
“I am just three years into MMA. I think I’ve proved [that I belong at the top] already,” he said. “I’m going to do my presentation. I’m going to do my art. That’s it. I want to make a show for sure for the people and for my team, but there’s no pressure [to get a big KO].
Whether or not Jones has delayed one of them from getting closer to their shot at gold is undeniable. Still, one of them is about to delay the other even further when they square off as the main event of UFC Vegas 20 this Saturday on ESPN+.