How Daniel Cormier has Jon Jones already defeated outside of the cage

In a perfect world, athletes would be judged exclusively on their physical abilities and their poise in situations of great pressure. But as we are constantly reminded, the world isn’t perfect.

In a society that thrives on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and more importantly traditional news media, being a professional athlete has truly become a 24-seven job. Your image, or more importantly brand, hangs in a very delicate balance, as athletes risk compromising all of their physical accomplishments with a tweet, picture or statement.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Look no further than UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones to serve as a model for this cautionary tale. An athlete so gifted and dominant that fans are already wondering who will portray him when the inevitable biopic of the greatest mixed martial artist comes to a theater near you. But despite his astonishing accomplishments inside the cage, he still remains polarizing to a large portion of fans who simply view him as a charlatan.

Jones, who fights Glover Teixeira Super Bowl weekend in New Jersey, has been on a media tour lately promoting UFC, and talking about his recent win over Alexander Gustafsson. One name that has come up several times on the tour isn’t Teixeira, Gustafsson, or even a light-heavyweight, though. That name: Rising heavyweight and former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier.

Cormier-Jones is a fight that, if made, could be a blockbuster. (Assuming Cormier can make the significant weight cut to 205, which is a big “If”.) So at a recent luncheon in Los Angeles, when Jones was asked about potential opponents, it wasn’t surprising the topic of a fight with Cormier came up.

Jones pulled no punches regarding his feelings on the heavyweight. He touched on not only how he views Cormier the fighter, but more interestingly, Cormier the person.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think Daniel Cormier really deserves a big fight,” Jones said. “I don’t respect him as a person. I think fighting me would be an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I don’t think I have much to gain from beating Daniel Cormier because no one knows who he is, and he hasn’t really proved much.”

Jones then went on to talk about his disappointment in the lack of unity among black fighters within the UFC ranks.

“He seems to really not like me and be a big hater of mine,” Jones said. “It’s sad, considering we’re both African-American and there’s not many of us in the sport. We should try to find a common bond. We don’t need to be friends, but we should at least respect each other. It’s pathetic that me and Rashad have such a bad relationship and me and Daniel have such a bad relationship.”

And here lies the dilemma regarding Jones and his outside-the-cage persona: Read those two quotes from Jones, and you might look at the champion as a hypocrite. It’s a shame that an athlete as gifted as Jones, who is on pace to potentially go down as not only the greatest light-heavyweight of all-time but as one of the greatest fighters of all-time, is still judged for his actions outside the cage. But then again, life isn’t fair.

Nobody’s perfect, and though Jon Jones oozes perfection when he crawls inside the Octagon, he is still a human being when he exits. Enter his apparent nemesis,  Cormier. SiriusXM Fight Club spoke to the UFC heavyweight on Tuesday, and the topic of Jones’ statements and a potential fight arose. Despite our best efforts to lead Cormier to vent his frustrations, the heavyweight didn’t relent.

And there you have it. Two completely different ends of the spectrum — at least as far as media relations go.

While Jones is still working on how he deals with the media, Cormier handles the awkward questions as smoothly as he implements a submission maneuver. Is it age? Will Jones ever be able to hold the media in the palm of his hand, like the MMA equivalent of Derek Jeter? These questions remain to be answered. And until he does refine his media game, there will still be two versions of Jones: The dominant force inside of the cage, and the polarizing figure outside.

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