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Jon Jones Is Poised to Claim Madison Square Garden’s Main Event

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Mixed martial arts had one of its big victories yesterday as the sport was legalized in New York. It’s been a long, arduous battle for MMA and primarily UFC, but finally the door for an event at Madison Square Garden has been opened.

On yesterday’s conference call Marc Ratner, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, likened MMA’s battle for legality to “an eight-year pregnancy”.

On the same call, Lorenzo Fertitta promised that the promotion would be pulling no punches with UFC’s planned debut in Madison Square Garden. Fertitta added that the show in the historic venue could be the first of “one or possibly two events by the end of 2016”.

“I think it’s going to be an epic moment for the sport and for our company,” said Fertitta. “Obviously, at the moment all of our focus is on trying to put together the matches for UFC 200.

“When we get to New York and eventually put on a show in Madison Square Garden me, Dana and the rest of the team are going to be focused on delivering for the fans. We’re going to be putting on the possible matches that we can. You’ll have the biggest names that we have available to us at that time. Believe me, we want to knock it out of the park and deliver to New York in a big way.”

With Chris Weidman joining Ratner and Fertitta on the call, it is likely that the former middleweight champion from Baldwin will get a nod on the MSG card. Fertitta also hinted at Ronda Rousey being on the card pending her availability. However, there is still one native New Yorker than could trump everyone else in terms of a main event slot at the event.

Rochester’s own Jon ‘Bones’ Jones was the first name batted around as a potential headliner when UFC were first looking to put on a show in MSG. Although the title fight against Cormier was later moved to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Jones has got every chance of securing the card’s top spot if he can reclaim his title on April 23.

Popularity

On March 4, the cheers that rang around the MGM Grand for the promotion’s Unstoppable press conference were mostly for ‘Bones’. It seems as though the dethroned light-heavyweight champion is more popular than ever despite being widely vilified after his heavily publicized car crash and subsequent UFC suspension and being stripped of his title.

The spirited gathering that were jammed into the massive arena erupted into applause after everything that Jones said, in what was his first UFC appearance since his fender bender. Daniel Cormier couldn’t disguise his surprise at how Jones had been welcomed by the fans, which gave the press conference one of it’s most memorable moments.

“As I address these people in here, I haven’t done all these things,” said Cormier over the booing of the crowd. “I haven’t wrecked my vehicle. I haven’t been suspended. I didn’t get stripped of my championship. I didn’t do all those things. These aren’t normal things that adult human beings do.

“You cheer this guy for saying he’s not going to do these things anymore. I have done this my entire life, but you boo me. Thank you. Thank you.”

With the amount of interest going into their April 23rd bout at UFC 197, Jones could become the most popular fighter on the UFC’s books should he add to his momentum with a victory. The fact that he is the only massive draw the promotion have that is coming off a win–with Rousey and McGregor losing their last bouts–a victory over Cormier will only bolster his international stock.

Potential Opponents

During a Q and A in early February, Jones suggested that he could see himself contesting ‘Maybe 3’ more fights at light heavyweight before he moves up to heavyweight. Directly after he answered the question about his potential move to the heavyweight bracket, Jones claimed that he would like the three fights to be against “DC, Rumble (and) Gus.”

If he manages to be victorious against Cormier, Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson would be an obvious choice to be the next counterpart to ‘Bones’. Despite losing out to Cormier for the light-heavyweight strap at UFC 187, the former welterweight has got back in the win column with two solid outings against Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader. Many still consider ‘Rumble’ to have the best chance at beating Jones out of the entire current crop at light heavyweight.

Fertitta said that he wants the UFC’s first show in MSG to be epic, and there won’t be many sells more captivating for fans than Jones moving up to heavyweight. If the opponent is good enough, a big date in front of his home crowd at new weight class might be too good to turn down for Jones.

 

Check out this related story:

Holy Shit! New York Just Voted to Legalize MMA

 

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