Sunday, April 27, 2014 | 1:35 a.m.
Jon Jones’ smile faded; his laughing ceased. He stopped fidgeting like a child overdosed on caffeine and froze to sit as still as a statue.
The unbreakable demeanor Jones showed throughout facing 25 minutes worth of punches from one of the world’s hardest hitters, Glover Teixeira, in the octagon at UFC 172 suddenly turned fragile in the aftermath. The mention of one name halted Jones’ celebration of his unanimous-decision victory (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) over Teixeira at the Baltimore Arena — Alexander Gustafsson
“I don’t really want to talk about that kid at all,” Jones said.
Soon enough, the UFC light heavyweight champion won’t have a choice. The probable best fight in UFC history will have an encore.
UFC President Dana White confirmed that Jones’ next title defense would come in a rematch against Gustafsson as soon as the champion was ready. Jones reported that he came out of the Teixeira fight healthy, but was noticeably sour on anything broaching the Gustafsson topic.
“No clue when I want to fight again,” Jones said. “I’m not thinking about the future at this point. I just want to live in the moment and be grateful for what’s happening right now.”
What’s brewing in the near future, however, was the only thing anyone in the mixed martial arts sphere other than Jones wanted to think about. Jones vs. Gustafsson II is currently the biggest fight the UFC could put together.
But Jones sounds hesitant at least, and resistant at worst, to accept a rematch seven months after the legendary first fight. The main reason the fight wasn’t immediately re-booked after last September, as White expressed a desire for it to be, was because Jones asked to fight someone else.
Jones then grumbled over Gustafsson’s next opponent, Jimi Manuwa, and hinted that he remained displeased about the situation after UFC 172. Part of Jones’ frustration was easy to translate.
Jones thought slaughtering Teixeira so thoroughly distanced him from the near-defeat suffered at the hands of Gustafsson.
“I think it would have to,” Jones said. “Glover Teixeira, to the hardcore fans, they know how tough he is. I definitely feel as if it gets me back on that wave of domination.”
Saturday’s performance was more reminiscent of the ones Jones racked up in his first six championship bouts when he demolished everyone in sight than the closely contested Gustafsson battle. Most expected Jones to come in mixing wrestling with his reach advantage to keep Teixeira at bay until he wanted to take him down.
While Jones did establish range when he so desired, he also played into Teixeira’s supposed strength by closing distance and fighting out of the clinch. Jones almost always won the exchanges, though, nailing Teixeira with elbows while keeping himself out of danger for the most part.
“I think it was the best performance of his career,” White chimed in.
White knows it’s the right time, and will push to make the Gustafsson bout as soon as he can. He floated the idea of holding the event in Gustafsson’s native Sweden.
It’s a possibility that Jones, as the champion, would seemingly have a good argument to resist. Then again, ascertaining Jones’ thoughts is a futile practice when he refuses to share them.
“I’m not going to talk about him at all,” Jones said. “I’m having a good time. I just won a fight.”