Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier have been involved in one of the most intense personal feuds in all of sports over the last two years or so, but is it merely and simply that?
In the build-up to UFC 200, we have been bombarded by hostile soundbites from both men, clips of tense face-offs and footage of their famous first fight – we mean this one in the lobby at the MGM of course.
The focus has always been on the animosity between the pair.
The steady diet of promotional fare that the UFC have fed us has been noticeably deficient in footage from their actual bout in January of 2015, however.
That might be down to the fact that, really, their UFC 182 battle wasn’t all that competitive.
The fight went the full championship distance, five, five-minute rounds, but all three judges scored it in Jones’ favour by comfortable three-point margins.
So perhaps this rematch is more hype than substance.
During a media luncheon in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jones made this very point. The former UFC light-heavyweight champion and current interim titleholder, claimed that the fight has only taken on the appearance of significance because of the things that have gone on away from the cage.
Inside it however, he feels as though Cormier isn’t a particularly close rival.
“He has been able to stir things up outside of the octagon, but inside the octagon I think people are making him this bigger thing than what he is,” said a dismissive Jones. “In my eyes, DC is just another opponent when we are talking about inside the octagon”.
The 28-year-old even went on to claim that he found the first fight with Cormier rather easy, especially compared to his September 2013 encounter with a certain Swede.
“He is not my toughest fight, Alexander Gustafsson was my toughest fight,” Jones told members of the press. “I consider the DC fight kind of like the Rashad Evans fight or the Glover Teixeira fight”.
“At no point of the fight did I get rocked with DC, at no point did he take me down, at no point did he put me in a position where I felt like I was going through hell. I coasted through that fight”.
“But everyone else is trying to make it like ‘Jon and DC are like…this is Ali/Frazier, this is the biggest one’. I think the fight that we all need to be talking about is with Gustafsson. He is the one who came inches away from winning. That’s the fight I would probably lose sleep leading up to. But DC, that’s like you ask me to rematch Rashad or Ryan Bader, or anybody else I beat pretty decisively”.
“So I’m trying not to let the outside drama fade into what’s happening here. I’m actually just a much better fighter than DC. He is just good at keeping himself relevant with this beef that’s been going on”.
Few would deny that Gustafsson gave Jones his most difficult night to date. In fact, many observers felt that “The Mauler” did enough to earn the nod from the judges, who unanimously elected Jones the victor at UFC 165.
However, since then, Gustafsson has lost two of three, including a decision defeat to Cormier, who has been a far more consistent performer than the lanky Stockholm native. Whether Jones is willing to admit it or not, DC has firmly established himself as the world’s best 205-pounder in the New Yorker’s absence and he has the belt to prove it.
Maybe Jones is right and he will illustrate on July 9th that there is a huge gulf in class between the pair. Maybe the interesting story of their personal feud will have a predictable conclusion. But DC has earned his shot at vengeance inside the octagon as well as out, regardless of the result.