The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Jon “Bones” Jones will walk into “UFC 140” on Dec. 10, as its light heavyweight champion. He’ll take on 17-2 Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre in a winner-takes-all brawl. Regardless of the outcome, he’ll walk out with his staunch faith in Jesus Christ.
“I have no doubt that Jon Jones is a devout Christian,” said Roger Pattison, a training partner at Capital MMA in Alexandria, Va. “He seems to be humble, hardworking and a good person. Faith in Christ provides strength outside of yourself and makes any of the work you do much more fulfilling.”
According to his website, Jones was born in Rochester, N.Y., and later relocated to nearby Endicott. He eventually won a state wrestling championship in high school before embarking on mixed martial arts (MMA) training in 2007. Four years later, he stands tall as the dominant champion of his weight division.
“Jon Jones is as good as they come,” said Joel Gerson, the owner of Toronto’s Revolution MMA training center. “He finishes premier fighters who are considered tough to beat and makes them look like B- or C-level fighters.”
The 24-year-old Jones will need all the help he can get against Machida, a veteran known for his extensive karate background. Gerson said Machida possesses a lifetime of martial arts experience and would thus fight Jones with precision honed over many practice hours.
“Machida does quick hits in-and-out,” he said. “The reality is he’s hard to hit. It throws other fighters’ rhythms off.”
Pattison said he believed Jones could counter Machida’s experience with his long reach to keep the elder fighter at a distance. Should the two get into a close scrap, he said Jones could utilize his unusual spinning elbow strikes or wrestling pedigree for another avenue to victory.
“God has blessed Jones with a natural raw talent,” he said. “Young and talented, he’s perhaps the most dangerous fighter I have seen for a long time. Jon Jones will win out on this one.”
Pattison said he sees Jones as the latest in a long line of Christian UFC fighters. Citing older competitors like former welterweight champion Matt Hughes, he said the sport attracts Christians who value its athleticism and self-improvement.
“Christianity and MMA are completely compatible,” Pattison asserted. “A surface glance at it and many will just see a couple of brawlers caged like dogs. It’s a sport and people get hurt, but there’s no real animosity towards your opponent. Once you understand the history behind the styles, the technical aspect and the respect that is inherent in this sport then you will truly appreciate what it has to offer.”
Pattison said training in MMA is a passion rather than a hobby. The best fighters, he said, master as many different martial arts styles as possible to become more versatile in the cage. Machida is a good example, he said, given he started in karate before expanding his skill set.
“Lyoto Machida is one of my favorite fighters of all time,” Pattison said. “He single-handedly brought traditional karate to MMA, which no one thought would work, and beat out the best competition in the world. He’s a classic martial arts figure.”
Eric Bailey, the manager of Warrior’s Gym in Alexandria, Va., said Machida would outmatch Jones with his elusiveness and patience waiting for striking opportunities. Such a strategy, he said, hasn’t been used by Jones’ most recent opponents like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Maurício “Shogun” Rua.
“Jones has been lucky so far,” Bailey said. “Machida strikes at odd angles. I don’t think Jones can counter that.”
Win or lose, Jones has his Pentecostal faith and the “positivity, God’s love, and chasing dreams” he promotes on his Twitter account. Gerson, who describes himself as non-religious, said that such spirituality can help spell success for certain fighters.
“There are a lot of fighters who draw on their faith for their power,” he said. “They believe there’s a hand guiding them. It may soothe their insecurities.”
Besides, Gerson said, the real miracle will be how Machida matches a fighter as natural as Jones.
“Jones pulls stuff off other people can’t even do in training,” he said. “I don’t see the fight going the distance. Jones is just too good.”