We’ve all been there, Jon Jones: A bad joke gone awry, a tiny mix up that could easily be explained away but instead turns into a grudge lasting years.
That’s how Jones describes the roots of the bad blood between him and rival Daniel Cormier, the man Jones must beat on Saturday at UFC 200 to win back the light heavyweight belt.
If he’d had his way, Jones said, the two would have been friends. But that was before a silly joke got in the way.
“So the way it started was Cain Velasquez fought against Brock Lesnar [six] years ago [at UFC 121] and Daniel Cormier was Cain’s wrestling coach,” Jones told The Post after a late-night training session last week. “I was backstage with my entourage; he was backstage with his entourage … and one of my boys told me that D.C. was Velasquez’s wrestling coach and he was an Olympian. So I thought that was really cool. I was kind of intrigued by that. I thought I’d walk up to Daniel and start a new friendship.”
That admiration soon turned to awkwardness, however, when Jones decided to make his approach by attempting to create what he believed would turn into a running joke between the two.
“I said to him, ‘Hey, I hear you’re an okay wrestler, but I guarantee you I could take you down at a wrestling match,’ and I thought he would laugh and say something like, ‘Oh yeah? Well prove it,’ or ‘You sure about that, kid?’ or something like that,” Jones recalled.
“[Cormier] got really pissed off and he was like, ‘Do you know who I am? Do you know what I’ve done? Maybe you should do your research before challenging someone like me.’ It was really awkward,” Jones said. “I did not expect it to go that way. You know how you tell a joke and no one laughs? I walked away feeling just like that.”
Cormier seems to remember things differently.
“We started fighting because I felt that he was very disrespectful when I first met him at UFC 121,” Cormier told The Post last week, “and then it just kept escalating and escalating and escalating and escalating and escalating.”
Most recently, the verbal spar took over parts of a media conference call on June 30. Cormier launched the attack this time, going after Jones’s affection for partying. Despite the fact that Jones is quite a bit younger at 28, the 37-year-old Cormier went so far as to label his rival a “middle-aged man” due to his hard living.
“Nothing’s free, man. All the partying and all the other stuff, you have to pay for that,” Cormier said. “He’s paying for all the outlandish living and he’s burning that candle at two ends and now we’re getting to the middle where it starts to die out.”
With the bad blood now fully churning between the two, Jones offered a quick retort.
“Where was your candle when I beat you the first time? Why was your candle out?” Jones replied. “I don’t get it … Next question.”