Throughout his seven-year reign of terror in the UFC's middleweight division and his three wins at 205 pounds, Anderson Silva was always a bit reluctant to accept the accolades about his career.
When questions were posed to him about being the greatest fighter of all time, he generally shied away from answering or boasting about his accomplishments.
For all the great things he did, Silva was hesitant to accept the honor of being the best fighter in MMA, but that's not an opinion shared by the man currently carrying the torch as the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA.
He has talked openly about what it means to be considered the greatest fighter competing today. He has no problem saying that he sets goals like breaking championship records held by Tito Ortiz (most light heavyweight title defenses) or Anderson Silva (most title defenses in UFC history).
Jones doesn't want to hide the fact that he's pursuing greatness, and he uses that goal as clarity for his preparation each time he steps foot in the Octagon.
"It's been really motivating to me to have that rank," Jones said about the pound-for-pound Top 10. "What it does for me, it helps me push harder and the days where I feel sorry for myself where I'm sore and tired, I think to myself I've earned all this, and it's for a reason.
"It's because I have a special work ethic. It just drives me to continue to work hard. It drives me to push harder, and to realize that I'm here for a reason and I need to continue to be that hard worker that I've been. It's just great. I'm really excited about it. After this fight, after this win, I'll feel like the ranking's a little more justified."
Jones will next defend his title against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 on September 21, which will be his first appearance since he took over the top spot in the rankings after Silva's loss. A win next weekend over Gustafsson is when Jones believes he'll secure his place as the best fighter in MMA.
Some might call him cocky for admitting that he wants to be the best or saying that he is the best. For him, the reality is knowing how to push his own limits and what expectations he places on his own shoulders.
He knows that any fighter can lose, and no matter how good he's been to this point in his career, anyone is capable of being knocked off his perch. Realizing that his dreams all go away with one loss, however, is the incentive he needs when the training days run long and he doesn't believe he can run one more mile or go another round.
"I absolutely know that I'm not unbeatable," Jones said. "There's no one that's unbeatable."
He is also a realist when it comes to preparing for his upcoming opponents. He's been critical of other top light heavyweight contenders when speaking about them on social networks like Twitter.
Following Glover Teixeira's knockout win over Ryan Bader last week, which secured his spot as the next title challenger at 205 pounds, Jones was asked his opinion of the top-rated UFC prospect. He responded by saying, "I think he's a lot like Rampage (Jackson) just with better grappling."
To put that in perspective, Jones submitted Rampage with relative ease in his first title defense back in 2011.
He also made statements about former Olympian Daniel Cormier, who is in the beginning stages of moving down to light heavyweight with hopes of challenging Jones for the belt.
The champ's words about Cormier were just as strong as the ones he made about Teixeira. He told Erik Fontanez of GracieMag.com, "He has short reach, bad cardio, he looked terrible in his last fight, it's not like I'm worried about him at all."
Jones says that whenever he's asked about an opponent or potential opponent, he just gives an answer as brutally honest as possible. It might seem severe with some of the statements he makes, but Jones believes if everyone was seeing what he was seeing, they'd be saying the same things.
"I definitely think they're all major challenges for me, but at the same time it's an honest assessment of where they match up with me," Jones said. "I think being in this position that I'm in it's important for me to look at mixed martial arts almost as a coach, and I have to remember that I'm still a student.
"At this level of fighting that I've been able to compete at, you see things and sometimes unlike the fans you look at it in a more realistic view. People are saying Gustafsson, he has the best footwork and he has the best boxing and then you really look at it and you're just like what are you talking about? Look closely, look really closely. I just look through very true eyes, that's the only way I can win these fights.
"You've just got to be real. If your opponent is terrible on the ground, or he's terrible with this, or he's really good at this and you've just got to really respect what he's good at and just really bring into the light what he's not good at. Just come up with a very honest assessment.
"My favorite quote—you know yourself and you know your enemy, you shouldn't fear the result of over 100 battles. I really feel like I know myself, know my style, and I feel like I've really figured out my opponent, I believe I've figured him out and I'm going to come out with an impressive feat that seems like a no-brainer to my coaching staff."
So far, the routine that Jones has been following is working to perfection. He's been a wrecking machine in his UFC career, defending his title five straight times at 205 pounds. Jones will look to add No. 6 when he faces Gustafsson in the main event of UFC 165 next Saturday night.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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