With the defeat of Renan Barao at UFC 173, Dana White now believes that "There's no debate now. Jon Jones is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world." With such notoriety comes many burdens and great responsibility. Jones knows that he is expected to face the best of the best; yet, that has not stopped him from voicing his opinion about who he really wants to fight.
The UFC originally leaked word that a Jones vs. Gustaffson rematch was scheduled for August 30th, despite the fact that Jones had yet to sign a contract for the fight. And, much to the chagrin of the UFC, Jones was insistent that he not fight Gustaffson next, but undefeated former Strikeforce champion and Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier instead. Upon hearing of Jones's wishes, many UFC fans began to criticize Jones, saying that he was ducking a rematch against the man who has given him his closest contest inside the octagon thus far.
Jones's desire for the Cormier matchup was so intense, however, that he took to his favorite social media outlet, Instagram, to share his views with his critics:
“Asking for an undefeated Olympic wrestler (and) Strikeforce champion makes me somehow a coward? How ’bout the fact that I beat Gustafsson already, whether you guys like how close it was or not? It’s my career, not yours,” Jones states in the video.
The backlash against Jones for expressing his preference to fight Cormier over Gustaffson was so vehement that Jones's coach, Greg Jackson, also stepped in to defend his fighter:
I've never heard him say, 'I'll never fight Gustafsson again. I'm scared.' I've never seen that from him at all. I don't really think courage is a problem for Jon Jones. He goes up against the best guys in the division. It might be a career move... Maybe he's looking for a challenge and doesn't feel that Gustafsson is the challenge everybody else thinks he is. I honestly don't know, but it could be that Cormier would escalate his greatness more than someone he has already beaten.
— UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) June 6, 2014
Luckily for both Jones and the UFC, Jones has decided to forego his insistence to fight Cormier and has signed the contract for a rematch against Gustaffson for September 27 at UFC 178, almost one year to the day from their previous fight which Gustaffson lost in a unanimous decision.
“I think Cormier is the tougher fighter, but the fans want to see me fight Gustafsson. There was never an issue with taking the Gustafsson fight. The issue was that my brother is getting married in July and I would have preferred a later date. I didn't want to go this early and I would have preferred to go later in October or November. It is what it is. We have a date now, Sept. 27. This was a personal decision for me. I will be at my brother's wedding and have a proper training camp,” explained Jones after he signed the contract.
While all of this controversy has been surrounding the Jones camp, Gustaffson has been quietly preparing for his shot at the title against an opponent who he thinks he can beat.
“... I think it’s a bad match up for him [Jones]. I don’t think he’s afraid. He knows it’s a bad match up and I think he tried to delay a little bit. Who knows why ? He just fought and I don’t know how he thinks … but for me it’s easy. It’s very easy. I didn’t have to think twice [about signing]. I want that fight no matter where it is. I’m ready to go.”
Image via YouTube