With the UFC crisscrossing the globe and hosting events almost every other weekend, it’s difficult to tell which region is the Octagon’s favorite. That was until UFC President Dana White said at Wednesday’s UFC 140 presser in Toronto, Canada, that “Without a doubt, this is the strongest market on the planet.” To which the crowd of rowdy fight fans from the Great White North cheered most appreciatively. Yes, Canada loves the UFC and the UFC loves Canada.
On April 30th, 2011, Toronto was the staging ground for the biggest night of fights in UFC history for UFC 129. A record 55,000+ screaming fans packed the Rogers Center to see two titles on the line, including that of the country’s favorite son, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Less than a year later, the Octagon returns to “The Megacity” on December 10th with another bit of gold on the line: the UFC light heavyweight championship.
In the span of nine months, Jon “Bones” Jones earned himself a title shot by defeating Ryan Bader at UFC 126, won the belt from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128, and defended the title for the first time in a dominant submission victory over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 135. Now, Jones will put the 205-pound division’s prize on the line against former champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. But before these two can clash in the cage, they had to make a pilgrimage to Toronto to meet the Canadian fans and answer the media’s questions.
And if one thing was learned, Jones and Machida won’t be trash-talking each other anytime soon.
“I'd prefer if the fights were a bit more respectful - this is martial arts,” admitted Jones, who had to sling just as many punches in the cage as heated words in the lead up to the fight with “Rampage”, but things are very different in this title defense with Machida. “Some guys have that discipline, honor, warrior spirit, and the other guys have that ‘I'm going to knock you out’ cagefighting attitude. I'm getting used to dealing with both.”
To add to the pre-fight politeness, both “Bones” and “The Dragon” see the other’s advantages in this main event bout exactly the same.
“My biggest advantage is my youth and versatility and the way I approach the sport,” said Jones, and Machida countered, “I guarantee I will be very well prepared and I'll overcome his athleticism with my technique.” In conclusion, neither fighter can deny Jones of the physical foothold being 6-foot-4 with an 84 inch reach and being nine years Machida’s junior. Meanwhile, “The Dragon” is one of the most versatile light heavyweights the UFC has ever seen, with elusive speed, knockout power, a dynamic grappling game, and a downright tricky style in the Octagon.
For the 24 year old champion, Jones’ 2011 seems almost never ending as he prepares to tangle with his third former UFC light heavyweight champion in just as many fights, but “Bones” is still hungry.
“I realize what I can lose and what I can lose in this upcoming fight, so it's not hard to get up for the fight,” explained Jones, who reached the top of the 205 pound mountain in his eighth fight in the organization, and has not shown any wear from the pressure, even in his first title defense last month. “I feel as if I’m handling it pretty well and balancing it pretty well. I envisioned myself as the champion and I’ve always tried to carry myself as the champion before I even had the belt. Not too many negatives come with a dream coming true.”
For the challenger, the people of Toronto get to see “The Dragon” in action for the second time this year, as Machida delivered arguably the Knockout of the Year to Randy Couture at UFC 129.
“I felt very welcomed by the crowd here and I fought a legend in Randy Couture and I'm very excited to fight for this crowd,” asserted Machida, who dropped the Hall of Famer with a jumping front kick, aka the “Crane Kick” from The Karate Kid, and who is already planning on some new moves from a very reputable source: the UFC middleweight champion. “Anderson (Silva) has already called me and he wants to come out to my hometown and show me some things.”
On December 10th at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, another slab of UFC gold will be disputed in the Octagon in front of the raucous and loyal Canadian fan base. UFC light heavyweight champion Jones will be put to the test against the title’s former owner and a savvy veteran in “The Dragon”. A contrast of styles of raw athleticism vs. honed experience should prove UFC 140 to be another can’t miss event in what’s become the Octagon’s favorite home.
Jones, Machida Respectful but Focused
“I realize what I can lose and what I can lose in this upcoming fight, so it's not hard to get up for the fight.” - Jon Jones