- UFC 152
Record-chasing Jones talks Sonnen rematch clause
UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones has underlined to ESPN the No. 1 reason why he rejected the fight with Chael Sonnen at UFC 151, and also explained why the option of a rematch clause did not make a difference to his decision to turn down the fight on eight days' notice.
Jones is set to meet Vitor Belfort in an explosive title bout on Saturday, but the build-up to UFC 152 is still overshadowed by the cancelled 151 card. Instead of fighting Belfort on September 22, Jones could have taken Sonnen as an injury replacement for Dan Henderson on September 1, earning severe criticism for his decision not to do so.
The fallout saw a number of explanations emerge from the Jones camp, so ESPN asked the champion to clarify exactly why he opted not to fight a middleweight who was offering to step up on short notice.
"The No. 1 reason I didn't take the fight with Chael Sonnen was timing," Jones said. "When you're fighting for a world title, it means more to the person who holds that title than anyone else in the world. Whether you're a fan, a promoter or a fighter, nobody goes to bed at night as a UFC champion. I do, and I know what it means.
"So to put it all on the line, for anyone else's behalf, makes no sense to me. No-one gave me the championship; it's not like the WWE when you become the champ if you have the highest ratings.
"The fact that you even care enough to talk to me now, I've had to earn, so at the end of the day the championship means more to me than anyone else in this world. A lot of people never understand why I wouldn't want to gamble that on eight days' notice.
"I've fought the best guys in the world so it wasn't a question of being afraid or something, it's about forming the best strategy to be successful, and that's what we've done by waiting and giving ourselves another month."
In reaction to Jones' explanation, ESPN put it to the Greg Jackson fighter that a rematch clause would have protected him from throwing away his title due to lack of preparation. Had Jones been shocked by Sonnen, a rematch clause would have allowed him to win the belt straight back after a full camp, but Jones explained why that would not have worked.
"A rematch would not have been an option because I'm closing in on the record for consecutive wins in the division, and that's really driving me," he said. "I'm a champion, so the only direction I can go is down unless I find ways to stay at the top, unless I have things like records to spur me on to greater things.
"Risking a loss, and starting all over on my immediate goal - the record for successful title defences at 205 - would have absolutely sucked."
Not only is Jones closing in on Tito Ortiz's record for successful light-heavyweight title defences, he also has the chance to chalk up five consecutive victories over UFC champions if he beats Belfort. Mauricio Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans have all been beaten, and Jones says it is that type of record - not a win over Chael Sonnen - that leads to legendary status.
"Records are very important for any athlete, I'm considered the champion but at times when people become champion, complacency sets in. Records keep you on the prowl.
"That's why the UFC 151 cancellation has been a blessing in disguise because I'll have competed with five UFC champions in a row. Nobody else can say they've done that. That's why I'm here, to be remembered as one of the best.
"Being a champ is great, but being remembered in history is even better. That's what keeps me going."