Perhaps at some point UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and former longtime UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will clash in the cage to decide who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in Mixed Martial Arts history.
For now, Jones has usurped the pound-for-pound ranking following Silva’s stunning loss to Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 162 this past Saturday in Las Vegas, ending a reign of almost seven years, a streak of 16 consecutive wins and 10 title defences.
"To be number one because of Anderson’s loss doesn’t make me feel like I’ve earned it," Jones said Tuesday at a media conference to promote his fight against No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson at the Air Canada Centre on September 21 in the main event of UFC 165. "It doesn’t do too much for me. It doesn’t feel real; doesn’t feel earned."
Similar to many people, Jones watched with disbelief as Silva lost to Weidman with a second-round knockout. He immediately took to Twitter and tweeted: "That sucks."
It was straightforward and brief, but it left so much to interpretation, if only because what happened stunned the MMA world, seeing Silva lose so dramatically. The fight will not be remembered so much as Weidman defeating Silva as much as Silva beating himself by clowning around and leaving himself exposed to what became a shot that sent him to the mat, followed by several perfunctory punches that knocked him out.
"I just don’t feel like he was beat, I just feel like he was caught," Jones said. "It sucks to see greatness go down in that fashion because of how he was fighting at the time."
When I asked Jones what he thought of Silva’s tactics, he didn’t mince words.
"I think he has an extraordinary gift…he believes in his gift, he’s comfortable with his gift and he abused his gifts… by disrespecting his opponent," Jones said speaking from the podium. "Martial arts is a sport that’s based on honour and integrity and treating people with respect, and he somehow lost sight of that and he paid the ultimate price for it."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. He was fighting the best in the world. 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."
The mantle of greatness is such that everything a champion does and says is measured more acutely than the person striving for that level. Jones thought about what he had said with respect to the "war gods" comments and then rephrased it when I asked him about it again following the media conference.
"I regret saying that whole MMA Gods thing, me being a Christian. I don’t believe in MMA Gods," he said. "What I meant by that was mainly karma – teaching him a lesson that you can’t disrespect people and expect everything to just go well. Do right with your gifts and the fight things should keep coming. I think it was a reality check for Anderson. I still think he’s a great person. I think he’s got to re-evaluate the way he’s been fighting and fighting more like a warrior.
"I don’t think (the loss) had anything to do with him being (emotionally and mentally) tired (from being the champion). I don’t think he threw that fight. I think he got caught."
Jones said when Silva spoke afterward about not wanting to fight for the belt again, he may have been down or depressed and feeling tired.
"It just kind of felt like ‘whatever, I’ve done enough, what I do need to prove anymore?’ It’s necessary emotions to be feeling after you’ve just been knocked out, but I don’t think he was tired leading up to the fight or in his training camp or anything like that. I think after the loss he may have felt overwhelmed."
Jones is riding a nine-fight win streak and has defended his belt five times. There has always been speculation that Silva might face Jones at some point. Who knows now? The whole landscape has changed. There is talk that Silva and Weidman may fight in late December in the final UFC card of 2013. Ultimately it will be up to Silva, who has 10 fights remaining on his contract.
Would Jones like to fight Silva?
"It wouldn’t matter to me if I did or didn’t," Jones said. "I believe I have to go on and break his records without fighting him and become the greatest."