Although UFC champion Jon Jones could've had a much better 2012, the light heavyweight star says that his year full of personal trials made him a better man.
Jones spoke with MMA Weekly shortly after winning "Fighter of the Year" at the World MMA Awards, citing that he "felt great" upon earning the award.
In particular, Jones heaped a lot of praise on his former training partner Rashad Evans, whom Jones defeated in a highly-anticipated match at UFC 145. According to Jones, Evans is one of the greatest light heavyweight fighters of all time and still commands a lot of respect from his one-time teammate:
Defeating Rashad Evans is gigantic to me. Rashad is unquestionably one of the greatest light heavyweights of all time, so I do feel like I beat an all-time great in Rashad. That's gigantic to me and a compliment to Rashad as well. [I have] a lot respect for the guy, still, after everything.
I haven't spoken to him. I'm sure it's weird for him, but I actually have a lot of respect for Rashad. I like the guy. Deep down, I remember all the good times we had.
Jones also spoke briefly about defeating Vitor Belfort in a hastily-made match-up at UFC 152 last September, stating that the "psychology war" in fighting "a fellow Christian" as another bonus to his career.
UFC 151 was a little out out my control. The DWI, obviously, I learned from that. I've grown from that and I'm a better man because of it. 'Wiser, stronger, smarter because of all that stuff. Tough year, fun year, crazy year. Lost some sleep some nights, celebrated some nights ... too much, but it was life. I lived another year. I'm alive to see 2013 and I'm blessed and I'm grateful.
Me and Dana are on good terms. I don't think we've ever been on better terms. I think he looks at me as a young man who has respect for himself, who stands up for certain things, who has a backbone and isn't afraid to speak his mind. I owe it to myself to be that way.
Ironically, Jones' recently won award is named after none other than TapouT founder Charles "Mask" Lewis, who died on March 11, 2009 due to alcohol-related vehicular manslaughter.
Regardless, Jones has nonetheless capped off a marquee year, even receiving a nod in ESPN's 2012 cross-sport power rankings. Jones also became one of the first MMA fighters to be sponsored by Nike, a company who likely be extremely prominent in the young champion's fight gear during his upcoming coaching stint on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter against rival Chael Sonnen.