By Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times –
Jon Jones made an unprecedented stand against the Ultimate Fighting Championship last month — the light-heavyweight champion declined to fight a last-minute substitute, prompting the first-ever cancellation of an entire UFC card.
His mother, Camille, beamed with pride.
“That was so Mama,” she said. “I would be miserable if I was being forced to do something I didn’t believe in. He’s not only an athlete, but a businessman and a thinker.”
It turns out the three sons of “Mama” Jones and her husband, Arthur, have had a major impact on American sports — and they will be on full display this weekend.
On Saturday, Jon, 25, makes the fourth defense of his UFC light-heavyweight belt, facing veteran Vitor Belfort in Toronto. After the fight, Jon plans to board a flight to Baltimore to catch up with his brothers.
Older brother Arthur, 26, a 6-foot-3, 301-pound defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens, plays Sunday night against the New England Patriots and their first-round draft-pick, 6-5, 247-pound defensive end Chandler Jones, 22, the youngest of the brothers.
“My immediate thoughts of the weekend are how we turned out who we wanted to be, and how I think that’s inspiring,” Jon Jones said. “I remember my dad had to go to Play It Again Sports for used sports equipment. We were those kids, the ones who didn’t have everything. But we made it with hard work, passion and faith.”
The elder Arthur Jones is a Pentecostal pastor and his wife, Camille, worked with the developmentally disabled until she lost her sight because of the effects of diabetes, Jon said.
Jon praises his father for making “the move that saved us,” taking the family out of the inner city of Rochester, N.Y., to a more family-friendly locale in Endicott, N.Y.
There, the Jones boys began playing sports. When the younger Arthur was in the seventh grade he asked his father to buy him some wrestling shoes, which, of course, got Jon interested in combat sports.
“We weren’t allowed to have sleepovers, weren’t allowed to do anything like go out to parties,” Arthur said. “Sports were pretty much all we knew. We were ingrained into sports, and that helped us to stay focused and maintain our focus on what’s in front of us.”
The older brothers, Jon said, would move their arguments over cereal portions and video games to the basement wrestling mat. “It was always me against Arthur, with Arthur beating me up,” Jon said. “When Arthur went too far, Chandler would get us in check.”
Jon became a state wrestling champion, then took those skills and added acrobatic kicks, spinning backfists and more to launch a dominant campaign through the UFC. The 6-4, 205-pounder has a 16-1 record, his only loss coming on a disqualification for hitting a flattened foe with elbows.
“We’ve never been pushy toward the kids and sports,” Camille Jones said. “I wasn’t the crazy cheerleader mom, my husband never really watched football in the house.
“But we aimed them to be whatever they could be their best at.”
The elder Arthur Jones describes Jon as “caring, compassionate, thoughtful, loving, passionate, with a fire inside him.”
Chandler “is the captain,” his father said, “When he sets his mind to things, they’re going to happen.”
Camille Jones tells of how Chandler once wanted a $300 radio-control airplane when he was a 12-year-old, something his mother frowned upon, partly because of the price. “I told him no, and don’t ask me again,” Camille said.
Chandler responded by leaving a voicemail for his mom. She deleted the message.
He took a picture of the plane and left it on her pillow. She crumpled up the paper.
Finally, he wrote a letter and attached a contract for each to sign, promising to get straight A’s in school and do all the chores it took to pay for the airplane. “I give up,” she said, buying Chandler the plane.
Chandler’s determination was evident in his Patriots debut, as he contributed five tackles and a sack against the Tennessee Titans.
The parents plan to attend Jon’s fight, then go to Baltimore, where they’ll root for … ?
“It depends on which son is in front of him,” Camille Jones said of her husband.
Chandler said in a recent conference call that he was appreciative of his brother Arthur for guiding him through the move from college — both played at Syracuse — to pro football. He said it continued the pattern of being “protected” by the brothers.
“I think Chandler knows what’s going to go on and that this will be a very competitive, hard-fought game — no matter the outcome,” the Ravens’ Arthur said of Sunday’s rematch of last year’s American Football Conference championship-game teams.
Jon, meanwhile, remains happy with his decision to refuse to fight UFC middleweight challenger Chael Sonnen on Sept. 1 after his original challenger backed out because of a knee injury.
“We’re not gladiators thrown into a cage to fight with no choice,” he said. “It wasn’t about being tough. It was about being CEO of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, and maybe making fight fans more educated about how the fight game works.”
Jones was satisfied with the extra time he got to prepare for the Belfort bout.
But UFC President Dana White said he’s still “super” upset over being forced to scrap the Sept. 1 Las Vegas event, and hopes for a private meeting with Jones this week in Toronto. “If you look at this sport’s history, the guy who says he’s a businessman first gets ahead of himself and takes a fall,” White said.
Jones’ mother disagrees.
“People need to see (mixed martial arts) fighters as not only brutes, but as thinkers,” she said. “That’s Jon. He’s articulate, unorthodox, he thinks. Some people may hate him, but I think even more love him for what he did.”