On Saturday night, Jon “Bones” Jones retained his UFC world light heavyweight championship belt against former sparring partner and champion Rashad Evans. The win gives Jones a 17-1 record and raises the question of what is next in the young MMA champion’s future.
Not his immediate future. That bit of intrigue was settled in short order Saturday night when UFC president Dana White announced at the postfight press conference that Jones would next defend his title against Dan Henderson. Henderson is a formidable foe who has previously won championships in Strikeforce and Pride.
If Jones does beat him, he will be sustaining an incredible run of excellence. He has already vanquished a parade of dangerous fighters who are former champions — Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rashad Evans. Even the 17-1 record belies the dominance he’s unleashed on the MMA; his one loss was a disqualification against Matt Hamill in 2009.
In a sport in which titles frequently change hands, that makes Jones a bit of an anomaly as a proven and regular commodity and someone who can become the face of the sport for a long time to come.
There have been a few UFC stars to provide templates for the path Jones might pursue. Tito Ortiz has had some bit movie rolls, started dating adult-film actress Jenna Jameson, and has recently been teasing a potential move to the WWE’s squared circle. Quinton Jackson took on the featured role of B.A. Baracus in the 2010 “A-Team” movie. Chuck Lidell went dancing with stars.
But Jones may have to look beyond the traditional MMA boundaries for his roadmap. At 24, he is already the longest tenured champion among the UFC’s weight classes. The more fight nights he headlines, the more nationally recognized he is likely to become. And UFC has a burgeoning relationship with the Fox network that promises more exposure. He may find some inspiration in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has had found success in sports and entertainment. The two have already been talking on Twitter:
@TheRock gave blood, gave sweat, now it's time to relax with the family. Thanks for the support brother— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) April 22, 2012