Jon Jones is no stranger to history-making moments. Already a surefire UFC Hall of Famer, “Bones” is widely considered the greatest light heavyweight of all time. Since becoming the youngest UFC champion in history at the age of 23, Jones has racked up big win after big win, all while becoming the first fighter to ever reach the 15-0 mark in UFC title bouts.
At age 35, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down either. At UFC 285, Jones became only the third man ever to win UFC titles in both the 205-pound and heavyweight divisions with his two-minute drubbing of Ciryl Gane to capture the vacant heavyweight strap.
“I’ve had some really special moments. I think I would put this one at the top,” Jones’ longtime coach Brandon Gibson said on The MMA Hour. “The three-year camp, the trials, the tribulations, the belief, the faith, everything we put into each other — it was really special. Greg [Jackson] has probably cornered 500-plus UFC bouts and I’ve probably done 150 with him. That was the most emotional I’ve seen Greg Jackson get during a fight.”
“It was right when Jon won,” Gibson continued, “I took a moment sitting on that corner stool and just kind of said a little prayer and gave thanks, because it was quite the journey to get there. And I remember turning around, looking back and seeing Greg, just eyes welled up and so much joy and pride in his face. Greg’s been in there with GSP and Rashad [Evans] and Holly [Holm] and Carlos [Condit] and ‘Bones,’ but we’ve never had a heavyweight champ of the world. So it was something very special to all of us.”
UFC 285 presented new challenges for everyone on Jones’ team — in more ways than one.
Not only was the 35-year-old champ coming off the longest layoff of his career and debuting in a new weight class, he was also attempting the feat without the help of longtime coach Mike Winkeljohn, who cut ties with Jones following the fighter’s 2021 arrest on domestic violence charges. Jones ultimately struck a plea deal with Nevada prosecutors and his domestic violence charge was dropped, but the relationship between Jones and Winklejohn remains strained, and Winklejohn was not a part of his team for UFC 285.
Gibson admitted that created a different sort of challenge for Jones’ camp.
“I have the utmost respect for coach Winkeljohn and I’ve been his student for 22-plus years as well,” Gibson said. “Everybody’s their own man and everybody has their own choices to make about who they spend their time and give their energy to. But there was never a question in my heart of continuing to be Jon Jones’ coach. And I think the challenges were kind of putting together this new team, and we had a lot of guys that have been part of the team for a long time … who really stepped up into their new roles.
“But it’s always a shift. We had over a decade of dominance together as as a team, and now it’s another chapter. But even myself, I had to step up into some new roles, and I’m proud of the men that came together. And I always have the utmost respect for coach Winkeljohn, I wouldn’t be here without him. And I have no doubt that Greg Jackson and coach Wink will continue to build great champions together.”
Gibson also addressed Jones’ pre-fight comments that attributed the listless end of his 205-pound run to a lack of motivation and enthusiasm for the opponents he faced.
That problem was very, very real, according to Jones’ longtime striking coach.
“Yeah,” Gibson admitted. “Yeah, he was. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was motivation or lack of respect, but you find a different gear when that sense of fear kicks in, right? When that guy standing across the cage from you makes the hair on your arm stand up.
“And at heavyweight, I think we’ll find a lot of opponents that bring that. Light heavyweight is so dynamic, these guys have so much skill and technique. But it’s not like heavyweight, where these guys can barely touch you and it’s lights out. I think at heavyweight there’s so much less room for error, and that entices Jon, that intrigues Jon, and that motivates him even more. So I’m really happy he made this jump, and we had such a focused and disciplined training camp, and brought out some of the best guys I’ve ever met to be a part of it. And I think we’re going to see a very strong run here at heavyweight for Jon Jones.”
“We were ready for [UFC 285] to go in any direction,” he added. “I think we were prepared for a five-round battle. I think we were also prepared for a flawless victory like that. We train for all elements and Jon was definitely prepared to go five rounds. But I’m very happy that he was able to go in there and take no damage, execute the game plan and his skill set so flawlessly, and just put on — that might have been his most dominant performance in his championship run. So I’m happy. Here he is at heavyweight and he just put a stamp, a mark, that he is here and he has arrived, just with a new style and dominance.”