Jon Jones had to reach deep within his soul to defeat Alexander Gustafsson the first time. It was an unexpected nightmare that Daniel Cormier truly believes the UFC light heavyweight champ never wants to experience again.
On September 21, 2013, Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada, played home to arguably the greatest championship fight in UFC history. Jones had effortlessly breezed through every legendary contender attempting to halt his light heavyweight title reign.
Initially, Gustafsson was looked at as little more than a pawn aimed at proving Jones’ success wasn’t completely based on holding significant physical advantages over opponents. For the first time in his career, Jones was tasked with defeating a contender who closely matched him in both height and reach.
Gustafsson snubbed any notion of being a pawn by dragging the UFC champ through the most grueling 25-minute fight of his MMA career. Both fighters could hardly stand on their own two feet by the time the final bell sounded.
Light heavyweight contender Cormier recently told Yahoo Sports that he believes the fight with Gustafsson changed Jones.
“He had to reach so deep into his soul to win that last fight, I truly believe he doesn’t want to fight Alex again,” said Cormier. “Alex took him somewhere he’d never been before and he doesn’t want to go there ever again.”
All three judges scored the fight in Jones’ favor, but there was no doubt the champ held on by the skin of his teeth. Many in the MMA community felt Gustafsson did enough to earn the decision. If anything, they surely felt he was deserving of an immediate rematch.
Who should Jon Jones fight next?
But UFC President Dana White told ESPN.com in October of last year that Jones asked for Glover Teixeira instead of a rematch with Gustafsson. In a statement released by the UFC, per ESPN.com, Jones validated White's comments by listing his personal itinerary.
He wanted to crush the UFC record for successful light heavyweight title defenses. After he defeated Teixeira, Jones promised fans a rematch with Gustafsson.
“I will fight Gustafsson after I fight Glover. I won the fight but I look at it as a blemish on my record because some people think I didn’t. I promise you, he will be next,” said Jones.
Fast-forward several months, and it’s like deja vu in the light heavyweight title picture. Gustafsson is once again the clear-cut No. 1 contender, but Jones has yet to sign the bout agreement.
White told UFC.com’s Matt Parrino that Jones is now seeking a fight with Cormier instead of Gustafsson. Even Cormier was dumbfounded when he heard about his name being thrown into the conversation, per Yahoo Sports:
I honestly don’t think Jon is afraid, but Alex pushed him to a point in that fight where I don’t think he ever wants to go again. So obviously, this might benefit me in the long run. And if Jon really believes that I would be the tougher fight, then he would be doing it for the right reason. But if he is saying he wants to fight me because he believes I’d be an easier guy? Man, I don't know. That’s not good.
The MMA world is always quick to judge and criticize Jones, but at the end of the day, Cormier believes the champ will do the right thing, whether he wants to or not.
“As the champion, it’s his obligation to fight the guy they say is the top challenger, and right now, that is Alexander Gustafsson,” said Cormier. “It’s been strange. At the end of the day, he’ll probably end up fighting Gustafsson again, but this isn’t something he’s volunteering for, I can tell you that.”