UFC 128: Why Pushing Jon Jones Into the Public Eye is the Right Move

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Since Jon Jones manhandled Ryan Bader at UFC 126 in February, all eyes have been on Jones.  His title shot against Mauricio Rua was announced immediately after the win over Bader, and it was made public he would replace friend and training partner, Rashad Evans, at UFC 128 on March 19th.  From that night onward, the media has had "Bones" on the brain, a large part of that dealing with the question - would Jones fight Evans if he wins the title?  As the media toys with the idea of inter-camp drama, the UFC is giving Jon Jones a major push on all fronts.  The biggest push being a Jon Jones special on Spike TV:

Spike TV will premiere UFC Presents Jon Jones: In the Moment on Thursday, March 17 at 11 p.m. ET. Chronicling the life of rising UFC superstar Jon Jones, this half-hour special showcases the 23-year-old’s journey to a shot at light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua this Saturday at UFC 128.

Nicknamed "Bones," the New York native has taken the sports world by storm thanks to his uncanny athleticism and endearing personality. In this all-access program, fans can follow him every step of the way as he gears up for Saturday’s epic showdown with one of the sport’s true legends. 

From his training camp to his family life, from New Mexico to New York, viewers get an inside look at the man in his defining moment, when the limitless potential of great talent meets the relentless pressure of great expectations. 

The show is produced in near real time, from the subject’s point-of-view, with no narration.

This is about the closest to the promotion of Dan Henderson against Jake Shields as the UFC's come in a long time.  Henderson was crossing over into Strikeforce from the UFC, and was facing Shields, a "boring" champion, and if you had watched any promotional video for the fight, you'd only catch a glimpse of the champion, while seeing the challenger get a ton of hype.  Shogun hasn't been quite as eclipsed as Shields was, mostly because of who he is, and the UFC dare not put ALL of their eggs in one basket.  On the surface, this situation may come across as foolish.  Jones is a young fighter who, with a lot of skill and a little luck, has tore through everyone he's faced and never been put in any real trouble.  It would be a catastrophe for Jones to finally face off against a skilled muay thai fighter like Shogun, get hurt, and crumble under the pressure.  After digging a little deeper though, the reasoning becomes clear.

The UFC light heavyweight division was the premier weight class in MMA for a long time, with Chuck Liddell leading the pack, reigning as the light heavyweight champion.  Rampage Jackson stole his thunder, and proved to be a solid draw as well.  He was then edged out by fan favorite Forrest Griffin.  Griffin then lost the title to Rashad Evans...are you seeing a pattern here?  The lack of dominance will catch up to you, no matter how many people like you.  Although popular, the most recent light heavyweight champions didn't reign long enough to become major stars.  Many speculate that Jon Jones may be the one to become the Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre of his division.  There's no doubt that's he's a skilled, ever improving fighter that's also a remarkable physical specimen, but he'll be facing the stiffest test of his career when he takes on Shogun.  Should he pass this test with flying colors this weekend, he'll be a champion, but could he be a star?  I see no reason why he wouldn't go over well with fans, and neither does the UFC.

Giving Jones half hour special on his road to the title is nothing short of grooming him to become the next superstar in the UFC, something that the UFC is always in need of.  If Jones does manage to take the title from Shogun this weekend, he'll be in a position to become the biggest light heavyweight draw the UFC's had in years, and considering how likely it is that he'll one day secure the title (this weekend or otherwise), he's a great investment.  Pushing Jones into the public eye isn't just the right move, it's the best move for the UFC to make going into UFC 128.

Credit to MMA Weekly for the amazing photo.

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