• UFC 126

Zelaznik labels Jon Jones 'MMA fighter 3.0'

ESPN staff
January 31, 2011

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Jon Jones has been hailed as the new generation of fighter by Marshall Zelaznik, who cannot wait to see the light-heavyweight take on Ryan Bader at UFC 126.

UFC chief Zelaznik is not only an employee of MMA's premier organisation, he also considers himself a huge fan of the sport. And, when asked to sum up the forthcoming UFC 126 card, featuring Anderson Silva v Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin v Forrest Griffin, and Jon Jones v Ryan Bader, Zelaznik responded: "This card is ridiculous."

The Jones v Bader fight, in the words of Bader, is "the future". Two unbeaten fighters (excluding Jones' disqualification against Matt Hamill), they are both considered title contenders in the 205lb weight class. And in Zelaznik's eyes, they will soon be the men that set the bar for generations to follow.

"I remember watching Jon Jones toss Stephen Bonnar around the Octagon and I turned to my son and said 'my God, look at this guy'," Zelaznik told ESPN. "Jones is like the MMA fighter 3.0.

"If 1.0 was the Chuck Liddell era, and GSP was the 2.0, Jon Jones might be fighter 3.0. His strength, his technique, his enthusiasm... this guy needs to be watched. Not only that, he makes it his priority to improve. Often you see talent like that go to waste. Not Jon Jones.

"Then there's Ryan Bader. He's much bigger than you think, he's extremely strong, yet he's a big underdog. I think this will be closer than people think. Bader is scarily athletic. These guys are so serious about what they do. You look at them and you think they must live in the gym!"

With the sport of boxing currently failing to put on arguably the two most in-demand fights, David Haye v Wladimir Klitschko and Manny Pacquiao v Floyd Mayweather Jr, it serves as another reminder that the UFC is willing to allow their prized assets to wage war whenever the timing seems right.

"This fight, if it was boxing, they wouldn't be meeting for another five years," said Zelaznik. "You would keep them on separate paths, you would build their records and feed them opponents. But we're going to see where the cream rises."

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