One of the things that has made the Ultimate Fighting Championship so successful is a marketing machine so good at selling fights they could have convinced the masses Godzilla and Tokyo were an even match.
Let them make a few commercials promoting “Jurassic Park” and viewers would be certain the goat had a fighting chance when it was thrown in the T-Rex enclosure.
Yet when trying to hype light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ title defense against Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of UFC 165 tonight in Toronto, all the brilliant marketing minds in the Las Vegas headquarters of the organization could come up with was the fact that the 6-foot-5-inch Gustafsson will be the tallest opponent Jones has faced.
Such is the level of dominance by Jones as he has risen to the top of the light heavyweight division. At this point, he seems to be chasing history much more than trying to hold off the other 205-pound fighters in the world.
Jones, 26, can set one record tonight, as a victory would be his sixth consecutive successful defense of the light heavyweight belt, breaking a tie with Tito Ortiz for tops in the division’s history.
“I set that (goal) a long time ago. I’ve set a lot of goals, and becoming the greatest light heavyweight recordwise is definitely a big goal of mine,” Jones said. “Guys like Anderson Silva with 10 (middleweight) title defenses motivates me a lot as well. So, yes, this record means everything to me and did kind of since my very first fight.”
Silva’s record for all-time title defenses now seems within reach after that streak came to a stunning conclusion in July when his reign ended at the hands of Chris Weidman.
Watching that championship run come to a conclusion did little to impact Jones’ psyche as he looks to surpass the record.
“I absolutely know that I’m not unbeatable. There’s no one that’s unbeatable. So, I don’t compare myself to Anderson Silva and the fact that he lost. It has nothing to do with me,” Jones said. “Anderson Silva has been in the game for a long time, and maybe he’s at the end of his career, but I just turned 26 years old with no injuries. I mean, he’s been doing this for so long, and I’m just getting started. I’m very much still on fire. So it’s like it has nothing to do with me for the most part.”
Silva’s loss did impact Jones in one way. Without even stepping into the cage, he instantaneously rose to the top spot on most pound-for-pound lists.
Jones doesn’t shy away from the perception that he is now the best fighter in the world.
“That ranking is very motivating to me. What it does for me is just helps me push harder, and the days where I feel sorry for myself, when I’m sore and tired, I think to myself, ‘I’ve earned all this, and it’s for a reason,’” he said. “It drives me to push harder and to realize that I’m here for a reason, and I need to continue to be that hard worker that I’ve been.
“It’s just great. I’m really excited about it, and after this fight, after this win, I’ll feel that the ranking is a little more justified.”
He enters the fight against Gustafsson, who has won six straight since the only loss of his career, as a minus-900 favorite.
The bout headlines a pay-per-view card that begins at 7 p.m. and includes an interim bantamweight title bout between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland.
Barao won the interim belt in July 2012 and successfully defended it in February. This is likely the last time for the distinction.
UFC president Dana White expects champion Dominick Cruz to finally return to action in early 2014 to fight the winner of this fight. Cruz has been out since October 2011 because of two knee injuries, but White said any further delay in Cruz’s return will force a “decision” to be made on the future of the division.
That’s good news to Wineland, who thinks he will be taking the belt home with him tonight.
“It still has interim in front of it, so you can’t take that away and say, ‘Hey, I’m the bantamweight champ,’” Wineland said. “However, it is a belt and a UFC title, so there’s still some significance to it. Hopefully, like everybody’s saying, this is the last time it will be defended as the interim, and we can unify the belt and move on with the division.”
Barao doesn’t care about the interim tag.
“Dominick has been out for a while, it’s going to be two years now,” Barao said through a translator. “I mean no disrespect to him, but from the moment I won this belt, and I have defended it once, I’ve considered myself the champion for certain.”
A heavyweight bout between Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione is also featured. At least four preliminary fights will air live on Fox Sports 1 (Cable 329) at 5 p.m. Four fights will stream live on Facebook and YouTube at 3.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.