"I think he's got to the point where he really believes in his gift, and he abused his gift," said Jones (18-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) in Toronto, where he next will fight Sept. 21 at Air Canada Centre. "He disrespected the gift by disrespecting his opponent."
The 25-year-old champ has a reason to be upset with Silva, who was knocked out by Chris Weidman in mid-showboat at this past Saturday's UFC 162 in Las Vegas. The No. 1 and No. 2 pound-for-pound greats were expected to meet in a blockbuster pay-per-view if successful in their upcoming fights. They stood to reap millions from revenue sharing with the UFC.
Immediately after Silva's KO, Jones tweeted two words: "This sucks."
Today, the young champ expanded on his feelings about the lost opportunity, and while he said he still considers Silva one of the greats, he said the former champ's approach to Weidman got him in trouble.
"Martial arts is traditionally a sport that is based on honor and integrity and treating people with respect, and he somehow lost sight of that and he paid the ultimate price for it," Jones said. "So I'm not going for the Anderson Silva hype train. I know exactly where he's at; you can tell exactly where he's at by the way he's fighting.
"I think he just got disrespectful, and the war gods just made him pay for it. He's still that great Anderson Silva in my book."
Now, Jones must beat back another young contender looking to shock the world by taking his belt. Despite winning his past six inside the octagon, Gustafsson (14-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) is a 4-to-1 underdog in the fight. But the champ said Weidman's performance is a reminder that nothing is safe when the stakes are high.
"It actually motivates me a lot, too, to watch somebody who I look up to lose," he said. "It's just a reality check. I try to keep my ego in check when it comes to the fight game, and watching Anderson lose like that – first of all, it's something I would never do, put my hands down and fight my opponent that way. But watching Chris Weidman's dream come true, I have to make sure to be a dream crusher."
A grisly toe injury Jones suffered while defending his title against Chael Sonnen this past April is on the mend, and he's now training boxing in shoes that protect his healing foot. He said the focus would come in handy for Gustafsson, who's a slick boxer.
Although Silva has dropped from the No. 1 spot on several pound-for-pound lists, Jones said he won't believe he's taken the former champ's spot until he beats Gustafsson in September.
"At this point, it doesn't really feel real," he said. "My goal is definitely to become No. 1, and because Anderson lost doesn't really make me feel like I accomplished anything. So I'm going to continue to work extremely hard to become the No. 1 light heavyweight in the sport, and eventually, I'll creep up on some of the things Anderson Silva has done in history.
"So, it doesn't really do too much for me. It doesn't feel real, it doesn't feel earned, and winning this fight will make me feel a little bit better about it."