Jon Jones has heard it all. He's been called an event-murderer, hated, selfish, afraid.
Saturday night, live on PPV, he will find sanctuary, maybe the hardest sanctuary on Earth, as he steps into the Octagon vs. former champion - two times by some accounts - Vitor Belfort.
After he famously declined a last minute offer to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 151, and the event was cancelled, the next offer came without discussion. The silence spoke volumes.
“I had never really approved the fighter or had any type of discussion about who I would fight next," said Jones. "But I said I’d do to just to kind of silence some critics. Just to say, ‘You guys think I’m afraid to fight people or whatnot. I never said I was afraid to fight anyone.’
“I just always said I just need somewhat of an appropriate times to prepare. So just to prove I’m a man of my word. I accepted any challenge.”
“I believe I’m going to do well. I also know what I’m up against. I’m up against a real winner.”
At the UFC 152 pre fight press conference, Jones reflected.
“I won’t say my feelings get hurt but it’s definitely difficult to have people who don’t obviously know you throw out all these opinions of you," said Jones. "But at the same time, I get a lot of positive feedback."
“In the position that I am, looking to do something great, looking to be historic, to have my name surpass my life, it’s going to be hard. You’re going to face challenges. I’ve embraced that. I’ve embraced the difficulty that I’m going to have to go through.”
“I’ve had some diamond scenarios in my life. Winning a fight to me is a diamond scenario. I embrace the pressure. Pressure makes you stronger.”
“At the end of the day, none of this stuff matters. It’s a job. It’s so small. The drama, the controversy. There’s people out there starving to death. There’s people with AIDS. There’s just so much more going on. If I was to sit here and really believe I have a hard life, it would be selfish."
Jones greatest pride is the women in his life, fiancée Jesse, and three daughters, ages five, four, and three. The youngest, Carmen, is named for his late sister.
“I fight for something bigger than myself," said Jones. "I’m fighting for the long-term success of my family, the long-term security of my family. It’s a beautiful thing to be a father. It pushes me farther and motivates me farther than anything could motivate me.”
“I tell them I’ve got to go back to work. They say, ‘Well daddy. Are you getting ready to go be the champion?’ I say, ‘Yeah, daddy has to go practice being the champion.’ They say, ‘Since you gotta go to work today, does that mean we can get Barbies?’"
“Kids do understand the values and importance of working hard to get things. Things aren’t just handed to you. You really gotta work for them. They know and they understand how hard their father works.”
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