Jon Jones narrowly escaped the T-Mobile Arena with his light heavyweight championship, edging out Thiago Santos in a split-decision victory. Fans have become so accustomed to Jon Jones winning in dominant fashion that many were taken aback by how close the fight was. Indeed, this was the first fight in Jon Jones’s UFC career where he lost the fight on one judge’s scorecard, with his output also being lower than usual. But as for Jones, he refuses to be hard on himself and instead chooses to be high on his opponent (Transcript via MMA Junkie):
“It would be disrespectful to Thiago and his great team to say it was a sub-par performance,” Jones said in the UFC 239 post-fight press conference. “I met a fighter who came game. He’s a black belt in Muay Thai. He’s been doing it for a long time. And I fought him where he’s comfortable and I have sore feet and sore legs and I’m very grateful that I came out on top.
“I am proud because his kickboxing and his standup is what he’s known for. I faced it head-on for 25 minutes and I found a way to come out on top.”
And Jones was not just proud following the fight, but he was also proud during the fight, but in a much different way. Some, including commentators of the main event, wondered why Jones chose not to implement more of his wrestling. Jones admitted that it was a matter of pride in not conceding the standup to Santos:
“I felt like if I would be the one to shoot that would mean he was winning in the kickboxing department,” Jones said. “I think I can be honest enough to say that. I think my pride was intact. It was a very challenging match on the feet. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of having to take him down. So I stood there and I stayed ultra-focused for 25 minutes straight to avoid those powerful shots and land my own.”
For those who believe Jones made a mistake that could have cost him the fight by not using more of his wrestling, if a rematch were to take place, Jones hinted that his approach could indeed be different:
“I’m not too worried about a rematch because I know there’s a whole different can of worms I could have opened and they were never opened,” he said. “I don’t think I even attempted to shoot on him and I’m curious what would happen if I did shoot on him the next time.”
What do you think of Jon Jones’s UFC 239 performance?