In April of 2015, the UFC stripped Jon Jones of the Light Heavyweight Championship after his involvement in a hit-and-run accident. UFC President Dana White joined The Jim Rome Show on Wednesday and admitted at that point in Jones’ life, he thought the pound-for-pound king had blown his talent for good.
“I thought that Jon Jones was never going to be right. I thought that Jon Jones who was a guy, a young guy, who became very successful, made a ton of money, and didn’t appreciate where he was at,” White said.
White said the Jones who will enter the octagon Saturday night at UFC 200 to fight Daniel Cormier for his old title isn’t the same person the promotion suspended last year.
“I’m not just saying this. You know me, I’d tell you the truth. This is a completely different Jon Jones we’re dealing with now,” White said. “He seems to have grown up, matured, and as weird as it sounds, this car accident thing might have been the best thing ever to happen to him, where he really started to realize, wow I could blow it all, lose everything and go to jail, and thank God, because this guy might be the greatest talent we’ve ever seen in this sport.”
Although Jones’ new found maturity hasn’t changed the way he feels about Cormier, who he beat in January of 2015 via unanimous decision. White says the hatred between the two light heavyweights is real.
“The only two guys to ever fight in the lobby of a hotel on stage at a press event in the history of the UFC. It’s never happened where they’ve had a full blown fist fight and every time they cross each other’s paths, words are exchanged,” White said.
White tried explaining why he believes the two fighters can’t stand each other.
“Daniel Cormier is a super intelligent guy, very easy going guy, but his hatred for Jon Jones turns him into one of those kind of guys that will fight in the hotel lobby,” White said. “I think he thinks that Jones is a punk, and super disrespectful. He respects him for his talent, but he doesn’t respect him for the way he feels he’s wasting it. And it just rubs him the wrong way and bothers him.
“And then Jones, he can’t stand Cormier. Even after he beat him, he was flipping him off and giving him hand gestures from across the octagon after he beat him and after he won. That’s when you know two guys really hate each other, or girls. Like Miesha (Tate) and Ronda (Rousey) when they truly do not like each other, you find out after the fight is over.”
During the interview, Rome informed White of the comments Nate Diaz made to Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel about what will happen if he beats Conor McGregor at UFC 202. Diaz said, “They better hope I don’t win this fight, because it’s going to be a lot of trouble for everybody, in terms of the business. This one coming up, they better hope I don’t win this one, because the game is going to change.” White said he hadn’t heard or read the article and tried to make sense out of the comments live during the interview with Rome.
“That’s crazy talk. I don’t even know what that means. But he’s got a great contract right now, he’s going to make a lot of money, win or lose he’s got a deal. I don’t even know what that means,” White said again. “At the end of the day, this fight, Connor is 145, Nate Diaz is a 170 pounds, so obviously this is one of those crazy fights. Connor wants this fight worse than anything, and it’s not one of those fights that really should happen. But Connor you know has stepped up in a lot of big fights for us, and this is what he wants, so we’re going to let it happen. I mean I don’t know what Nate means, if I beat the 145-pound guy again everybody better look out. I don’t even know what that means. It makes no sense.”
Even if Diaz were to win, White isn’t sure how that gives him the leverage he mentioned.
“This is one of those crazy fan fights, and obviously a fight for Conor, because Conor wants it so bad, and Nate is accepting it and giving Conor a rematch,” White said. “But at the end of the day, I just don’t know how it changes the game. The guy is a 145 pounds. Are you going to take a run at Robbie Lawler at 170 or are you going to try at [Rafael] dos Anjos again at 155? That just doesn’t make sense.”
Diaz also said in the article that McGregor’s antics have been just like his own and his brother Nick’s, but because the UFC wants “that Irish fan base because [he’s] got that silly accent,” the company allowed the Irishman’s antics and instead suppressed theirs. White remained confused, but explained how McGregor became the star he is.
“What do you say to that? It’s hard to rebuttal what the Diaz brothers say? He acts like him or whatever, I don’t know,” White said befuddled. “Conor burst onto the scene and became a massive superstar in a couple years, just in a couple years, and he went out there, and the difference is, I mean, Conor actually went in there and won a world title and knocked out Jose Aldo, one of the greatest, the greatest 145 pound ever, knocked him out in the first round. I don’t think he’s acting like anybody. The guy went in there and has a dynamic personality and actually went in and won a world title, that’s what’s made Conor. And Conor is willing to fight anybody anywhere, anytime.
“Guys pull out in 10 days and Conor basically says I don’t care, call me and tell me who I’m fighting, I’ll fight anybody. Then he fights this Diaz fight, and looks phenomenal in the first round, gasses himself in the second round. And what makes sense is you move back down to 145 and defend your title. No, he wants to fight Nate Diaz again. Those are the kind of things that make Conor McGregor popular. When you are a fight fan you want to see a guy who will fight anybody, anywhere, anytime, and can actually win and win world titles. That’s what makes guys popular.”