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UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, his challenger for the belt at UFC 182 on Jan. 3, kept it classy during Monday’s star-studded “The Time is Now” press conference, but there was plenty of tension between the two fighters in several testy exchanges.
No fight in MMA is more anticipated than the battle between these two, who have barely contained their disdain for each other in the months preceding the announcement that the two would finally meet – a battle between hated foes that came together when a training injury sidelined top contender Alexander Gustafsson.
Finally, after tangling with each other, the Nevada State Athletic Commission and a postponement while Jones’ recovered from a torn meniscus in his knee during a training session, Jones-Cormier will settle their score on Jan. 3 during the main event of UFC 182 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
During a question-and-answer session at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Cormier was asked whether all the back-and-forth between the two fighters has been motivating, or taxing.
“You don’t need much more motivation than knowing you’re fighting the No. 1 pound-for-pound guy in the world,” he said. “It hasn’t helped to motivate me. I was motivated anyway.
“People ask me questions like, ‘Do you think you got under his skin?’ I don’t think that’s exactly a good thing. Rashad (Evans) got under his skin, and he got beat up. But I’m excited about fighting the best Jon Jones that there is. So if I have to kind of prod him a little to train harder and be more committed, so be it. Jan. 3, I can’t wait to fight him.”
Jones said there is motivation in fighting someone “you don’t really like."
“Yeah, I’m definitely fired up. I’m sure he’s fired up," said Jones, adding that his knee is back to full mobility and is at about 90 percent. “And you can see that come Jan. 3.”
With that, Jones and Cormier began to spar with words yet again – while UFC President Dana White staring right at them.
“Can you just wait for me to finish, for just one second?” Cormier asked Jones, looking across the stage in his direction.
“OK, big boy,” Jones answered, with a smirk as the crowd laughed nervously.
Responded Cormier: “January 3 … January 3.”
Said Jones: “The champ, and still …”
Cormier: “And the new light heavyweight champion … “
The crowd exploded in laughter.
Jones-Gustafsson was scheduled for UFC 178 in late September, but a torn meniscus sidelined the Swedish star and opened the door for Cormier, who dropped to light heavyweight as he looked to settle a score with the man considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
The feud exploded into fisticuffs in August at the MGM Grand Hotel, when Cormier shoved Jones backward after the two bumped heads during a staredown photo shoot. Jones retaliated with wild punches and the two fighters tumbled into the backdrop behind the stage.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined Jones $50,000 and Cormier $9,000 for their parts in the now-infamous brawl, along with community service.