In case you haven’t heard by now, UFC 214 is this weekend. While the card is chock-full of potential “Fight of the Night” and even “Fight of the Year” candidates, it’s safe to say a clear majority of fans are going to be tuning in to see just one bout: the highly anticipated and crucial rematch between Daniel Cormier and the returning, again, Jon Jones.
Jones’ checkered past hopefully is behind him. This is his chance to prove wrong all his doubters and to squash a rivalry that is years in the making. He can also continue to make his claim as one of the greatest of all time. As my colleague Mike Pendleton mentioned earlier this week, Jones is already looking past Cormier and ahead to bigger and supposedly “better” competition against former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
Hit the brakes.
Jones needs this win. The UFC needs Jones at light heavyweight right now because, honestly, the division has grown a bit stale. The title picture recently has involved just four men: Jones, Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson and recently retired knockout artist Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Jones was stripped, and “DC” fought Rumble for the vacant title. Cormier was able to capture the strap with a submission victory. He went on to meet Gustafsson and win via split decision, which would set up the rematch with Jones, who was coming off his own suspension and lackluster win over Ovince Saint Preux. That fight between Jones and Cormier, as history now shows, never came to fruition. Instead, “DC” met Rumble for a second time. Once again, Cormier submitted Rumble. Now, Jones is needed more than ever.
Jones’ legacy needs to remain in the light heavyweight division. A move to heavyweight has been floated around for years, mainly when Cain Velasquez was champion. That fight fizzled when Fabricio Werdum submitted Velasquez and Jones had his run-ins with the law. Jones against any legitimate heavyweight could further his career, but the aforementioned Lesnar is not that man. Lesnar, whose MMA record in his last four bouts is a bleak 1-2 with 1 no-contest after failing his post-fight drug screen after his bout with Mark Hunt at UFC 200. It’s the same situation as Anderson Silva against Georges St-Pierre or Fedor Emelianenko versus Randy Couture — the time has passed. Let it go.
Right now, the UFC is going all in for Jones. Even with his history, he is all the UFC has left. It seems the UFC is willing to look past all the trouble that Lesnar has caused, albeit minor compared to Jones, but still troublesome nonetheless. The UFC is focused on what is going to make the most money instead of what makes sense for the progression of the sport. With the absurd amount of money Conor McGregor is going to be making for himself and the UFC, why would the company look anywhere else?
MMA has spent decades trying to separate itself from the corruption that boxing brought to the table. It’s not to say that MMA didn’t have its own controversial times — looking at you, Pride FC — but nothing on the scale of the scrutiny faced in the world of professional boxing. A Lesnar/Jones booking would continue to reward those in the wrong and show that it’s all about the dollar signs, instead of the quest for greatness and the dream of becoming not only a champion, but the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
Jones still has that chance. All he needs now is focus, because, come fight night, he will not only clash with Cormier, but he will also be fighting his own internal demons and the seemingly endless wall of doubt and shaming opinions of those looking for him to fail. Those fans, along with Jones, will be seeking one thing: redemption.