Jon Jones would rather use the term “instinctual” instead of “dirty” when discussing eye gouging accusations.
The UFC light heavyweight champ’s dangerous habit of utilizing an open palm to maintain distance tends to leave opponents squinting like Chuck Coleman from The Wonder Years. Particularly in his bout against Glover Teixeira, Jones faced a lot of criticism for fighting with an open hand and poking opponents in the eyes.
During an appearance on The MMA Hour, Jones addressed the criticism surrounding his open-handed tactic, which many believe to be dirty:
I realize that I do it. I realize the criticism that I got from it. It’s not on purpose. If you watch my fights, a lot of the times when guys get poked in the eyes, it’s me extending my arm in a reactionary way. I do put a hand on people’s foreheads to maintain distance. That’s what you saw in the Teixeira fight, but to say I am purposely poking people in the eye, it’s just inaccurate. You can call it what you want.
MMA legend Bas Rutten called Jones a “dirty fighter” after the Teixeira fight.
Appearing on Inside MMA, Rutten claimed that Jones was a calm and methodical fighter who knows exactly what he’s doing every time he steps into the Octagon. There’s no way around the word dirty when a fighter purposely rubs his fingers into the face of an opponent, according to the former UFC heavyweight champ.
However, Jones maintains the argument that the eye pokes aren’t on purpose. He even admits that it’s something he needs to work on.
“I don’t believe it’s dirty,” Jones said. “It’s something that I do instinctually, it’s something that I need to work on. It’s just something that happens.”
Jones is slated to defend his title against Daniel Cormier in the UFC 178 main event on Sept. 27. On fight night, all eyes will be on the champ to see if he makes the necessary adjustments or settles back into his old ways.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.