Long before UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had dreams of winning a title belt or goals of becoming a mixed martial artist, his religion and his older brother Arthur Jones motivated him to strive to be the best. When he was in high school competing for a New York state wrestling championship, it was Arthur -- a defensive lineman on the Ravens -- who gave him words of encouragement and motivation.
So, when Jon set out to win the light heavyweight championship, it was only fitting that Arthur was once again in his corner.
“It was great to have my brother to motivate me to win my first world title, because it was him that motivated me to win my first state championship,” Jon said.
As a professional football player, Arthur would normally spend his off-season at the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills. But because of the lockout he had to workout on his own and prepare himself for the upcoming season.
Arthur had also set goals for himself this year, and it was his little brother Jon who kept him motivated.
Jon is an avid reader of motivational books and quotes. You can often find him quoting verses from the Bible to quotes from Bruce Lee. So when Arthur was aiming to rekindle the dominance he had shown at Syracuse, it was no surprise who he talked to.
“Basically knowing where I came from when I was at Syracuse, I've always been that guy that the coach could depend on to be out there to dominate," Arthur said. "Last year I was playing and healing up from injuries from college. Learning a new system, it was like being in college all over again as a freshman. Watching our last game against Pittsburgh from the sideline, knowing that I felt that I could help. So, I didn’t take anytime off and went straight into training and hopefully it pays off this year."
Jon had just won the biggest fight of his MMA career, defeating Ryan Bader, who at the time was 12-0. Jon won the fight in exciting fashion, taking home the “Submission of the Night” bonus by landing a guillotine choke in the second round. After the fight, Jon was given opportunity to fight for the World Light-Heavyweight Championship against Mauricio Rua. But, he would have only 41 days to train for the fight.
Around the same time the Ravens football season had just wrapped up and Arthur was told what the team was expecting from him during the NFL lockout.
“He knew what he had to do in the off-season when he left here," Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. " Especially with the lockout, [defensive line] coach [Clarence] Brooks made it perfectly clear, here is what we expect you."
Arthur joined Jon in Albuquerque, N.M., in the high attitudes of the desert, to cross train at Greg Jackson’s mixed martial arts gym. Arthur intended to get in better shape, but still try and take it as a vacation.
“But [Jon] didn’t let me do that," Arthur said. "After missing a workout one day, Jon told me that, ‘laziness is contagious’. Our daily routine was boxing in the morning, wrestling in the afternoon, followed by weightlifting. On Fridays, we ran the sand dunes for cardio, which was a mountain full of sand. We did that about 4-5 times, and it was rough. We did so many different things that my body feels so alive now. I was able to drop around 9 percent body fat.”
Along with that, Jon shared with Arthur a lesson he learned from Jackson, an MMA guru.
“Greg Jackson taught me how to dig deep and embrace pain and suffering, and the warrior spirit," Jon said. "So that’s something I got to show [Arthur]. That’s something he would not have gotten at a college football practice. I gave him a little bit of what Ray Lewis has.
"Ray Lewis doesn’t look at football as a football game or running sprints and lifting heavy weights. Ray Lewis looks at it as warfare. It’s surprising that he has that mentality because he’s never been a martial artist. With Arthur being around Greg Jackson’s and this high altitude training and this desert, it taught him how to look at football as more than a game but as warfare.”
So, in some ways, the lockout it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the brothers.
“This summer we got to combine our work ethics together and our lifestyles together," Jon said. "Arthur and me we were together everyday in high school, we walked to school together, we had our first job together being paperboys in the winter. We’ve done everything together. Even throughout our wrestling careers we both made it to the finals together.”
Jon is the youngest UFC champion ever and many believe that when his career over, he maybe be one of the greatest MMA fighters ever.
But despite all the glitz and glamour Jon has experience as a mixed martial artist, His life has not been without it’s low points.
“I hold so strong to my religion, even though I’m not the best person or the cleanest person and I have my dirt and I do things that are unnecessary at times," he said. "Despite of all my downfalls, that’s what keeps me strong and believing in God. I’ve been in so many lows and horrible spots in my life and I’ve always come out and things always work out for me. Even when I was at my lowest low, a college drop out that got his girlfriend pregnant. I always believe that God wouldn’t put too much on me that I couldn’t bare. So, I just kept on believing in God and believe that as long as I had good will, good intentions and that I was working hard as well, that it would come true for me. I always try to do the right things and I try to give him the glory, he continues to bless me and let good things happen in my life."
On Saturday, Jon makes his first title defense against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 135 in Denver.
His biggest fan will be 782 miles away in St. Louis, cheering him on before the Ravens face the Rams the following day.