Is it arrogance or confidence or both? These questions are surfacing over Jon "Bones" Jones's recent comments regarding his light heavyweight championship fight versus the current UFC title holder, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, at UFC 128 this Saturday in Newark, New Jersey.
As featured columnist Trent Reinsmith reported, Jon Jones has set aside his traditional humbleness for a more direct, in-your-face approach for this matchup.
Speaking on the Countdown to UFC 128 show, "Bones" explained that he has been providing autographs to fans with "Jon Jones Champion 2011" signed.
Is this brash move a disrespectful smack in the face at the current champion Rua? Or is Jones's confidence a foreshadowing of what will come when the sweat is wiped and the blood is clotted after this epic battle on March 19th?
A champion needs to be confident, right? Fans want to witness a battle between two fighters at the top of their game, both physically and mentally. A fighter who doubts his outcome has already lost the fight before the initial bell has been sounded.
Few doubted Joe Namath's prediction of a championship ring at Superbowl III. Even less doubted the confidence of the Boston Red Sox when they were suffering an 0-3 deficit to their hated rival, the New York Yankees, during the 2004 American League Championship Series and stormed back to take the following four games.
So why is Jon Jones being vilified for stating that he will be champion in 2011?
Like Jones, other UFC fighters have created their own hype trains prior to key matchups. Josh Koscheck provided an array of media sound bytes before his Welterweight Championship fight versus Georges St-Pierre at UFC 124 in December of 2010.
After months of one-sided trash talk by Koscheck, it was St-Pierre who provided the only conversation during the fight in the form of an onslaught of vicious jabs which broke Koscheck's orbital bone and silenced the bitter tongue of the No. 1 contender.
So, I ask again, are Jon Jones' recent comments about his future arrogant, confident or both?
To this author and former fighter, I believe that "Bones's" comments are both arrogant and confident; yet his words also convey another message—fear.
Jon Jones is first and foremost a fighter who fully believes in his abilities. He has proven to be an amazing talent inside the Octagon in a relatively short period of time. His success as a mixed martial artist, coupled with the media's fascination of his meteoric rise, has provided the young MMA superstar with well-deserved confidence.
However, with an overall MMA record of 12-1 without a single victory over an opponent with the resume of Mauricio Rua, Jones may be overstepping the belief he has in himself and boldly riding the wave of arrogance shared by fighters such as Koscheck.
Will Jon Jones defeat Mauricio Rua this Saturday at UFC 128?
The epic slogan that former wrestling superstar Ric Flair theatrically made famous was, "To be the champ, you have to beat the champ." And to date, "Bones" has not defeated a fighter the caliber of Shogun.
Arrogance can be blinding, and has the potential to provide a false sense of security. Shogun is the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion because he is the best in the world and his highlight reel supports that status. There is no debate regarding Rua's brilliance inside the cage.
The final message conveyed by Jon "Bones" Jones' shift in attitude is fear.
To quote a Bleacher Report reader, Ethan Tremblay, "I do think he (Jon Jones) is acting a little strange coming (in) to this fight. Then again, he could be over-compensating his confidence with the hidden fear and that (is what is) causing him to say some foolish things..."
Very eloquently stated Ethan. Fear will force the most humble of fighters to say and do things out of their character.
This Saturday, March 19th, at the Prudential Center in front of thousands of fans in Newark, New Jersey, we will witness whether Jones' belief in himself is arrogant, confident or both by his performance and demeanor inside the Octagon.
We will also see if he becomes another notch on the already impressive belt of the current champion, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, which would subsequently bring the Jon Jones' hype train to a screeching halt.
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