Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA has gained a heavyweight. But, has J-W also lost one of the sport’s greatest fighters, at least for competitive purposes?
Jon Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion, has doubled down recently on his pledge not to fight for the UFC until the sport’s most powerful promotional organization pays its fighters more generously.
If he has to sit out the rest of his current contract, Jones says, so be it.
Jones’ rift with UFC President Dana White involved White’s refusal to pay the Albuquerque resident what Jones felt was a fair amount for a proposed fight against hard-punching heavyweight Francis Ngannou.
But Jones, speaking on actor-comedian Steve-O’s podcast, said it’s not just about him – but all UFC fighters.
“Most (fighters) who are doing the absolute worst (financially) are not in the position that they can say publicly, ‘I have a second job, I’m borrowing money from my parents,'” Jones said.
“I know so many fighters who are living in the Jackson-Wink gym because they can’t afford to have their own apartment and they’re UFC fighters. So this is sad.”
Meanwhile, UFC heavyweight Maurice Greene (8-4) is scheduled to make his debut under the Jackson-Wink banner Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada, against veteran Gian Villante (17-11).
Greene comes to Jackson-Wink from Colorado’s Factory X Gym, which he called no longer a good fit. Speaking Thursday at the UFC’s pre-fight virtual news conference, Greene said he plans to move his family to Albuquerque.
“I need to move my family so I can be a world champion, and Jackson-Wink is the place that’s gonna make me that world champion,” he said.
“It’s full of killers … five, six heavyweights. You’ve got some light heavyweights, and then you’ve got the GOAT (Jones), the greatest of all time.”
Jackson-Wink co-head coaches Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson, Greene said, are “two of the legendary coaches in the game. So how can you lose if you just follow the course and listen to the guidance from all those great MMA minds?”
Greene is a solid betting favorite against Villante, who’s moving up to heavyweight after competing at light heavyweight (205 pounds) the past 10 years. Both fighters, however, weighed in on Friday at 255 pounds.
ADD JONES: On the Steve-O podcast, Jones said he’s content for the time being to focus not on the cage but on community outreach in Albuquerque.
Jones said his latest brush with the law, a Downtown Albuquerque DWI arrest in March, was a life-changing event.
“I’ve never been on camera drunk for the public to see like that,” he said. “It was humiliating, and somewhat of a bottom for me. And (now) I’m ready to snap it into high gear.”
UPCOMING: Las Cruces High School graduate Joseph Benavidez (28-6) will get another shot at the now-vacant UFC flyweight title on July 18 when he faces Brazil’s Deiveson Figueredo (18-1) on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The fight will be a rematch of a Feb. 29 title fight won by Figueredo via second-round TKO. Figueredo was not awarded the title because he failed to make the 125-pound flyweight limit.
The outcome was controversial because of an unintentional head butt incurred by Benavidez that might have influenced the outcome.
… Santa Fe flyweight Jerome Rivera (9-2) is booked for an Aug. 4 appearance against a yet-to-be named opponent on Dana White’s Tuesday Contender series.
Rivera originally was matched against Brandon Royval, to whom he lost by first-round TKO – suffering a gruesomely broken arm – on an LFA card in May 2018. But Royval, for undisclosed reasons, is no longer on the show.
The Contender Series often leads to a UFC contract for those who win impressively, as it did two years ago for Albuquerque’s Jordan Espinosa.