JON JONES THE FORMER UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP REFLECTS BEFORE HIS RETURN TO THE RING
SI: What have you learned over the last five years?
JJ: To separate my family life from my career. Careerwise, it has been crazy. Life has been.... I can't complain. I lost my mom. But outside of that, man, bills are paid, kids are happy. On the other side, the career side.... Sometimes you wish you could rewrite things. But that is life.
SI: Do you ever think, I'm in a good place—kids, married—this whole fighting thing, this chapter is over?
JJ: I considered it. I considered it for a while when the allegation [of PED use, in 2016] first happened. Maybe doing real estate or get into something else. Without the identity of being light heavyweight champion, it was just extremely depressing for a while. I had to learn the value of just being Jon Jones. No matter what happens to me at work, it is a very small part of what my life is.
SI: Are you an athlete or a performer?
JJ: What do you mean?
SI: Years ago, you said you almost didn't feel like you were in a fight. That's how natural it came.
JJ: I remember always walking backstage and saying, Man, I am feeling good, I got no scars, nothing is sore. That was before Gustafsson. [Jones beat Alexander Gustafsson, by unanimous decision in 2013; a rematch is on Dec. 29.] That was the first fight I felt like I was in a fight.
SI: So you've had one fight where you had to go to a level that you hadn't had to before.
JJ: It takes a lot of courage to get in there and know that you could possibly go to war. The first time I fought him I thought I was going to walk right through. But this time I am prepared to go to war.
SI: When you fight now, what's your level of nervousness?
JJ: I know what I am doing. I trust my cardio. I trust my training, my skills. I trust, you know, the playlist. It's like a Tom Brady. I am sure when he was younger, he used to try to do all this mental stuff; but by this time he has thrown so many balls, he just knows how to read what's happening.
SI: You used to say you had zero nerves.
JJ: I was lying to you.
SI: Can you dunk yet?
JJ: No. Ha-ha-ha.
SI: You're still a world-class athlete?
JJ: I think I am.
SI: You are still 6'4"?
JJ: I am. But I cannot dunk. I still cannot dunk. Nope. Not happening.
SI: You're a better fighter now, at 31, than you were at 25?
JJ: Oh, yeah. If me, right now, got my hands on Jon Jones at 23, youngest champion in UFC history, I would strangle that little boy.