The countdown to UFC 232 is in full force out in New Mexico.
With less than two months left until former UFC light heavyweight king Jon Jones makes his return to the Octagon against Alexander Gustafsson on Dec. 29, camp is well underway for “Bones” and the coaches at JacksonWink. One of those coaches is wrestling specialist Israel Martinez, who joined the team in Albuquerque earlier this month for the stretch run leading into the Las Vegas event. And although Jones has been sidelined since July 2017 as a result of his second USADA suspension, Martinez is already pleased with what he’s seen and heard from the record-breaking former champion.
“I usually step in about six weeks out, kinda get Jon ready to go,” Martinez explained recently on The MMA Hour. “He’s been taking the last four weeks getting his cardio right, getting a bunch of things right with his jiu-jitsu instructor, ‘Professor Tussa,’ Roberto Alencar. [Striking coach Brandon] ‘Six Gun’ Gibson is down there. So we’ve got those two guys on him heavily, two- and three-a-day workouts. I talked to Brandon Gibson last night, [Jones] got a great workout in at 8:30 at night. Jon’s ready to go, and that’s all I’ve pretty much got to say about Jon. He’s ready to go — it’s going to be exciting.”
Jones, 31, is generally considered to be one of the greatest fighters to ever compete, but has also been his own worst enemy, having suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds since 2015 that has kept him sidelined for a majority of the past three years. Chief among those self-inflicted wounds are the two failed drug tests in 2016 and 2017 that led to separate lengthy suspensions, as well as the 2015 hit-and-run automobile accident that led to Jones being stripped of his UFC light heavyweight title for the first time.
But now Jones is on the comeback trail once more.
His second, most recent USADA suspension ended up being reduced to only 18 months. That came as a surprise to many within the MMA community, as Jones was facing a maximum four-year penalty, however arbitration ultimately ruled in his favor. Now Jones is set to return against Gustafsson, the man who gave him the most difficult fight of his career back in 2013. Jones defeated Gustafsson via unanimous decision at UFC 165 to successfully defend his title, but was forced to rally in the championship rounds to do so.
Gustafsson has pledged to avenge that defeat on Dec. 29. But after everything Jones has overcome in recent years, Martinez is confident that’s going to be a tall task for the Swede.
“It’s like Yair (Rodriguez). Yair overcame a lot and he feels great. Jon’s overcome a lot and he feels great also. You get that vibe from him,” Martinez said. “You get that energy. He called me the other day as we were talking to Yair before the fight, wishing Yair good luck, and I noticed his head was shaved. And when Jon Jones shaves his head, that means he’s all business. So it was good to see him with his head shaved. It was good to see him with high spirits, wishing Maycee Barber, wishing Yair Rodriguez good luck, because I cornered those guys. So, he’s ready, his spirits are high, and it’s dangerous when these guys can overcome some stuff and move forward, because Jon’s going to put on a show.”