Nobody will be expecting much out of Dan Henderson when he makes his latest long, lonely walk to the Octagon on September 1 to face Jon Jones.
That's not a slight on Henderson, though I can see how it might be taken that way. It's just that Jones has, in a very short amount of time, utterly and completely decimated the light heavyweight landscape and rendered all challengers inept and ineffective.
Jones' dominance is such that his staggering advantage over his opponents can't even be blamed on the opponents. Not anymore. Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua are still excellent fighters, even if some of them are just a tad bit past their primes. And in a world where Jon Jones didn't exist, all four of them would have a very real chance of holding that light heavyweight belt.
And so it's easy for me to point out that all of the pressure in the world is riding on Jones heading into the Henderson fight. And you know I'm right, too.
On top of all the hype regarding Jones—he's already considered one of the top three fighters in the entire world at the young age of 24 years old—he's also on the precipice of becoming the most public mainstream face of mixed martial arts, having just signed the first-ever global endorsement deal with Nike for a mixed martial artist.
That's a lot of weight on your shoulders, whether you think you can carry it or not. And perhaps Jones can carry it with ease. He has the supreme confidence—some might call it arrogance—of the greatest athletes in the history of sport.
Michael Jordan had the same swagger. He knew he was better than you, and he'd actually get angry when you attempted to beat him, like you had the nerve to try to compete with the best in the world. The anger made him want to decimate you even further, and then he'd make you pay in spades.
Jones has it. He has the preternatural athletic ability. He has youth. He has marketability.
And that's why all of the pressure rests squarely on his shoulders heading into UFC 151: Because a loss would send it all crashing down, just as he's starting to reach a transcendent level in the sport. It wouldn't be the end of his career or even a major glitch. But it'd be a setback all the same.
Jones gets a lot of hate from fans, for being arrogant and for his out-of-the-cage transgressions. Sure, he could be a lot less vocal about his personal life, because we've seen all of that talk come back to haunt him over the past six months. But every great person in life—every person who has ever accomplished anything special or out of the ordinary—was probably a bit of a jerk, because the inner drive that allows you to be great at something also forces you to overlook other aspects of your life.
Jones can be one of those people who truly accomplishes something great. I don't care about his personal life, because what he does on his own time and his own dime doesn't concern me in the slightest.
The only thing I care about is what I see in the cage, and what I've seen thus far has all the shades of greatness.
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