Jon Jones gazed off briefly while he thought about the question he was just asked: Is it true? Is he as arrogant as some people say he is? Does he agree with that?
“I think I am,” he said during a press luncheon Monday in New York before his bout with Glover Teixiera Saturday at UFC 172. “I think I am a little arrogant. The thing about me, I say all the time is, I notice that I’m full of myself and I’m arrogant to some degree, but it’s obviously only when it comes to talking about MMA, where literally, I do the wildest stuff.”
It’s necessary, Jones says. But it’s confined to the fighting ring, where his three-plus years as reigning light-heavyweight champion gives him every right to feel at least a little invincible.
“I don’t feel like a celebrity at all," he continued. “All my friends are normal people, normal dudes who do the most normal stuff all the time. But when it comes to MMA, there is a big chip on my shoulder. There is a way that I look at myself, and I think it’s really, really important. It’s something that I’m not apologetic about. As I get older and as I win more, I start to embrace it even more. The biggest thing is not to be apologetic about it. I realize it’s a big part of the reason I’m able to perform out there. The moment I let fear seep in is the moment the fights starts getting closer and closer.”
It may be that arrogance that has seemingly placed Jon “Bones” Jones, an undefeated champion, in the villain role. Enough so that he would ask a table full of reporters what they think it is about the way he conducts himself that sometimes elicits a negative response from fans. He likened himself to LeBron James—vilified after The Decision to bolt Cleveland for Miami—and Floyd Mayweather, who has wholeheartedly embraced himself as a character fans love to hate.
“People like to see greatness fall,” he said. “Very few people like to see winners continue to win...You do get to a point when you stop caring.”
Part of his relationship with fans could be that he’s plowed through the UFC ranks so easily, dispatching Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to win his title, making him the UFC’s youngest champion ever at 23 years old. He's gone on to steamroll other former champions like Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans. Then there are a couple of recent controversies that include UFC president Dana White admonishing Jones for declining a fight against replacement fighter Chanel Sonnen that caused the company’s first show cancellation. There was another incident when Jones allegedly used a homophobic slur in response to a fan.
Jones maintains that the post was made by an employee of a social media company authorized to post on his behalf and says that that employee has since been fired. But his challenge now is not just Teixiera, it’s erasing the thought that there’s a hole in his armor, having been pushed in a close fight with Alexander Gustafsson last September.
“Having that fight with Gustafsson, I got a taste of what it would be like if I actually lost,” Jones said. “Hearing things like, ‘You suck,' I ask myself, 'How can I suck after beating almost every legend in light-heavyweight history?' But hearing this negative backlash from having such a close fight has motivated me to not ever lose.”