For UFC's Jon Jones, Baltimore seems like home

  • Jon Jones stands with his UFC belt at Monaco Hotel where he was speaking with reporters about his upcoming match in Baltimore.
Jon Jones stands with his UFC belt at Monaco Hotel where he was… (Kevin Richardson, Baltimore…)
February 05, 2014|Peter Schmuck

UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones and challenger Glover Teixeira were in separate meeting rooms Wednesday at Hotel Monaco when they met the local media to promote their April 26 title fight at Baltimore Arena, but that wasn't really necessary.

They could have been seated side by side as they spoke highly of each other and talked about UFC 172, the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship card to be held in Baltimore. They were so polite, it was hard to imagine them trying to beat the stuffing out of each other in the Octagon.

Maybe it was because the bout is nearly three months away and the prefight adrenaline hasn't started pumping yet. Maybe it seemed so low-key because we became conditioned during the golden age of pay-per-view boxing to expect the combatants to hype the event with nonstop trash talk and the occasional weigh-in scuffle.

That kind of thing has been known to happen in the mixed martial arts world, but all was relatively quiet Wednesday. Jones isn't your typical prizefighter, and Teixeira might be the most warm and cuddly brawler since Rocky Balboa, whose name actually came up in the conversation a number of times.

"It's not always like that," Jones said, "but I think what you realize when you get with the higher-level fighters is that we have no reason to disrespect each other. He knows exactly what I've done to people. I know what he's capable of doing to people. ... We're both pretty good at what we do. There's no reason to pretend like this is personal or anything like that.

"We're both aware that this is a very high-level fight and we need to treat each other like professionals, with respect, and get this job done, and ultimately entertain the fans."

No doubt there are some people in the promotions department at UFC headquarters who wouldn't mind if these guys pumped up the volume a little bit, but Jones has quickly ascended to a place in the UFC universe where he can decide how to market himself, and Teixeira seems genuinely thrilled to be in the discussion.

"I think when I was younger, people wanted me to change who I was and be more and talk a little more, but this is who I am," Jones said. "I'm here to sell the fight, but I'm not here to be somebody I'm not. This is our job, and I am going to do the art the way I do it. I think there are a lot of traditional martial artists who respect the fact that we're not being idiots and embarrassing the name of martial arts. We're carrying ourselves the way martial artists should carry themselves."

If it weren't for the fact that Jones is the younger brother of Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, it might be tough for local fans to choose sides. What's not to like about the amiable underdog, who tried to teach himself to box by punching trees around his home in Brazil?

"My father worked on a farm and he really didn't understand anything about fighting," Teixeira said. "He saw I loved karate movies — Bruce Lee movies — and Mike Tyson fights. ... One time, because he could see how much I loved this, he put a bagful of sand on a mango tree so I could punch. But it was so hard in the bottom because it got wet from the rain, I was going to break my hand."

Teixeira might be the more touching human-interest story, but Jones is considered the best pound-for-pound mixed martial arts fighter in the world and has successfully defended his light-heavyweight title six times since taking it from Mauricio Rua in March 2011. And he'll be treated like a hometown hero when he steps into the cage at the Arena.

"I've definitely adopted Baltimore as one of my hometowns," Jones said. "I feel a lot of support here. A lot of the people that write me on social media are Baltimore fans. Whenever I go to the football games, I feel like I've come amongst my support base. Just being good friends with the Baltimore Ravens, I know I'll have a lot of support from Baltimore Ravens fans and the people of Baltimore. I'll definitely go into this feeling like I have a little home-field advantage."

Clearly, the fact that Jones is going to headline UFC 172 and that it's going to take place in Charm City is not a coincidence.

"This Baltimore date made a lot of sense," said Jones, a Rochester, N.Y., native. "Being the first event in Baltimore means a lot to me. I push for things like that. When I found out it hadn't been done before, I was like, 'Wow, that's kind of cool.' Then it's like, your brother's a Baltimore Raven and that's kind of cool. And it's close to New York state, too, so people can drive down and support you, and that's kind of cool. It just seemed like a no-brainer.

"It's not Vegas. It's not a big prestigious arena, but the sentimental value is why I'm here."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog, and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" on Friday mornings at 9 on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

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