“Jon Jones! Go Check on Lyoto! Get Some Fans!” —Greg Jackson
Jon Jones is the subject of much criticism here at The Donnybrook Report. He isn’t very vocal about his opponents to the same degree other fighters who can sell a fight are. But he doesn’t need to either. Jon Jones wins. Period. If only he would allow the wins to speak for themselves.
It’s what he says and does outside of cage that leaves some fans putting their hands on their collective heads. He espouses his faith, going so far as to wear it on his chest, yet he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. His Instagram account was linked to several homophobic remarks, and he attributed that to his phone being hacked. And then lost. He’s arrogant and cocky and quick to taunt fans who may criticize what he says and how he says it. And then he walks back those taunts. He’s all at once brilliant and maddening, making him hard to ignore.
It’s also why Jones’s connection to fans is taut and fraught with tension.
Enter Fightmaster Greg Jackson, Jones’ s longtime coach and mentor.
During a fight with fan-favorite Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 in 2011, Jones viciously choked Machida unconscious. Upon releasing the choke, Machida fell to the floor violently, his eyes and mouth wide open as if something deep inside of Machida was escaping his body in the creepiest of ways. It was like something out of a Hammer Horror film. And as Machida lie on the mat being attended to by John McCarthy, Jones walked away quietly to the opposite corner, brimming with the most silent of confidence. He didn’t cartwheel or crow. He simply walked away. It was cold-blooded and classy all at once.
From the outside it was a clear indication that Jon’s own camp is aware of what MMA fans think of the champ. Or at the least, it was a confirmation that it’s all about appearance for Jones. Don’t check on Machida because you actually are worried about him. Check on Machida because the very act could garner some goodwill and you need all the goodwill you can get. Of course it’ a very cynical way to look at things, but given the complexity of Jones’s public persona, it’s not a stretch either.
Jackson later explained that the instructions to the champ were merely shorthand. And to this day, Jackson and Jones have said nothing critical about Machida, so it’s safe to say that Jackson’s concern was legitimate if not pragmatic.
What makes the quote significant is that it’s clear Jones’s camp is keenly aware of his image. But that’s the problem. Asking Jones to go get fans is impossible. You can’t rally them with a cattle prod or with the promise of candy. The fans have to come to him. Let Jon Jones be Jon Jones, and in due time, they’ll come in droves.