Here are the two clips from UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones' appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. Jones discusses everything from flirting with Kirstie Alley (gross), to stopping the robber hours before his huge fight with Mauricio Rua and other basic message points. Video is below.
Clip 1 here:
Clip 2 here:
There was a lot of hand wringing about the UFC positioning Jones as the "first" UFC fighter on the show. He's not, technically, anyway. Tito Ortiz did a field segment for the show years ago and Quinton Jackson promoted the A-Team movie with Leno. That's true, but beside the point. The intimate sitdown with Leno is where the donuts are made. Jones not only explains what MMA is, but he puts the most agreeable, friendly, young and vibrant face on it possible. Jones is already, in my mind, surpassing where Georges St. Pierre was this far into his career. That's partly a function of where MMA was at the time for GSP and partly because Jones is far more of a natural at the media game. He's got everything GSP has plus charm and a supremely disarming smile.
Fighters like Jones aren't simply rare because of their talent. They're rare because they can straddle two worlds and excels in both. He's at once a prizefighter with a brain tuned towards hurting other men for money. He's also a friendly, engaging 23 year-old kid with funny stories to share around a coffee table with friends. Where other fighters have lopsided lives of pure Spartan existence that never force them to develop skills to speak conversationally, Jones does it with natural aplomb. Where other fighters develop a shtick that covers for a lack of elite skills, Jones is the youngest UFC champion ever.
It will be curious to see how Jones' popularity changes his drawing power over his next few fights. I expect a blockbuster of a fight against Rashad Evans and from there, there's no telling. But I don't think it's inconceivable he could one day be the biggest draw in the UFC. He has to keep winning and get lucky with a few more media breaks (the robber story is the biggest gift from the media heavens I've ever seen), but he has the raw material to be a transcendent fighter. He's no Muhammad Ali, but he doesn't need to be to make a lasting impact.
It's good for Jones, it's good for MMA and it's good for the fans.