Leading up to Jon Jones’ (Pictured) heavily-hyped grudge match against Rashad Evans, you may have noticed the UFC angling to portray Jones as MMA’s version of beloved boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Not only was “Bones” plastered on the organization’s latest magazine cover mimicking Ali’s classic underwater pictorial, but they also released a promo video featuring Jones while ‘The Champ is Here’ repeatedly rang in the background.
Leading up 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle,” Ali famously chanted those four words each time he entered a room reigning champion George Foreman was already occupying.
Despite the lofty comparisons that have been set, Jones feels at ease with the overwhelming expectations placed on his broad 24-year-old shoulders.
“It adds no pressure, I just find it fun,” Jones stated during Friday’s conference call. “I definitely don’t consider myself Muhammad Ali, I thought Muhammad Ali had many flaws in the person that he was. At the same time, I love Muhammad Ali.
“I’ve watched every interview he’s ever done. I’ve read a Muhammad Ali book. I have autographs signed ‘Cassius Clay,’ I have his autograph signed ‘Muhammad Ali.’ I’m a huge fan, but I don’t strive to be Muhammad Ali. I strive to be the best Jonathan B. Jones that there ever was. I want to do things better than Muhammad Ali.”
Regarding the promotional angle the UFC has taken towards promoting their latest golden boy for his third light heavyweight title defense, Jones claims he’s a mere puppet and the organization is the one pulling the strings.
“I never came out and was like, ‘Oh, I want to be Ali. Put me on the cover underwater.’ That was the UFC’s idea,” Jones expressed. “That’s the people on the outside looking at me in a positive regard. I’m truly honored and I think it’s awesome.
“With most young fighters, it will probably get to their head and they start to think, ‘Oh, I’m the man now. Look at this cover.’ It would deteriorate a lot of young fighters, but for me, it motivates me. It empowers me to train harder and I realize that if I don’t become greater than Muhammad Ali, it’s my own fault.”
During today’s call, Jones also referenced that some in the MMA community have likened his anticipated shootout with Evans to Ali vs. Frazier. FYI – Joe Frazier handed Ali his first professional blemish to kick off their trilogy.
UFC 145 takes place April 21st inside Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Please click the media player below to watch “The Champ is Here” promo: