“You want to talk about who’s the baddest man on the planet?” Joe Rogan asked. As it turns out, it was a conversation that Tyson Fury and Jon Jones were very keen to have.
It might have taken the best part of two months for the question to reach Fury, but when the WBC heavyweight champion heard Rogan’s own answer, he became incensed.
“If Jon Jones and Tyson Fury are locked into a room, I’m pushing all of my chips on [Jones],” Rogan laughed, the UFC commentator and comedian speaking on his Joe Rogan Experience podcast in March. “Tyson Fury is an amazing boxer… he doesn’t have a f***ing chance in hell of making it out of that room. He has no chance of making it out of that room, zero chance. He would have to catch Jon immediately with one punch, and I just don’t see that happening, man. The threat of the takedown looms so large; that shot will come so unexpectedly. When he gets his hands around you, you’ll be so stunned.”
To those uninitiated in the realm of MMA, Jones is the UFC heavyweight champion of the world and is seen by many as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Jones, 35, won the vacant heavyweight title a matter of weeks before Rogan daydreamt up a contest between the American and Fury, but his legacy was built on a frightening run at light-heavyweight between 2008 and 2020. It was a long phase in which Jones beat some of the greatest fighters that his sport has ever seen, finishing the majority of them and suffering a sole defeat after throwing what were – controversially – deemed illegal elbows; in most minds, “Bones” is unbeaten. To fans willing to overlook his failed drug tests, he may be unrivalled.
There is no asterisk on Fury’s unbeaten record; the Briton is one of the most talented, enigmatic boxers of his generation, a unique heavyweight in the annals of the sport, and no man has found a way to outfight or outthink the 34-year-old in 34 bouts. Two have found a way to put Fury down. Neither has found a way to keep him down.
Jones would have no problem doing either.
Rogan, a jiu-jitsu black belt, is right to highlight Jones’ wrestling and grappling abilities as the obvious means by which the UFC heavyweight champion would manhandle and neutralise Fury. Sometimes, when discussing the prospect of a boxer crossing into MMA, boxing fans suggest that their fighter would be equipped enough to deal with a mixed martial artist after just six months of training in ‘MMA’. Six months is a curious timeline, plucked out of nowhere for no specific reason.
This perception is problematic, in part, as a misunderstanding of how most mixed martial artists train. They typically commit years of their lives to various disciplines in their own right – boxing, Thai boxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and more. Some practitioners spend well over a decade pursuing a black belt, even while training in just one of those fields. Fury has had a few pointers from Darren Till, a former UFC title challenger from Liverpool, for what that is worth.
Still: “I heard Joe Rogan say something about me, and I’ve been off all the social medias and didn’t reply to that little p****, little bald-headed midget,” Fury said on Thursday (18 May). “I heard him say that Jon Jones could f*** me up if we were in the room together. I don’t think so. Not a man born from a mother could f*** me up, in a room, on our own. Whatever happens in that room, I’d be walking out. Not a f***ing problem.”
Yet one of the several problems is that, while a fairly inexperienced grappler would have no issue controlling Fury from the get-go, Jones in particular thrives in wrestling exchanges. And that is not even his greatest asset, with the American’s application of elbows and kicks among his most devastating attributes.
“Hey Tyson, it seems like Joe may have struck a nerve,” Jones tweeted on Thursday. “I’ll admit there’s no one touching you in that ring right now, but [don’t] let that confuse you with what would happen if you stepped foot in my cage. If you ever want to put some of those questions you got going on to rest, give Dana [White, UFC president] a call. I’ll help you out.”
Fury, wisely, was quick to retreat, paying a degree of respect to Jones and clarifying that by ‘room’ he certainly did not mean ‘cage’.
“I see Jon Jones has piped up,” Fury said in a social-media video. “Jon, you’re talking about me in a cage. I’m not a cage fighter, mate, I’m a boxer – the best boxer actually. So, if you want to come into a boxing ring and fight me, be my guest. Let me know. You don’t have to call anybody else – no Dana’s, nobody. You call me, because it’s a boxing fight, and I’m the boss in this game. Me.
“You’re a great fighter, Jon, but you’re definitely no boxer, that’s for sure. All the best, good luck.”
Fury has flirted with a crossover fight before, repeatedly calling out Jones’s predecessor as UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou. The pair shared the ring for a few moments after Fury knocked out Dillian Whyte at Wembley last April, and Ngannou is now free of his UFC contract and signed to the PFL, which is allowing the Cameroonian to box on the side. That would be the stipulation for a super-fight between Fury and Ngannou: a boxing match.
And it would have to be, just as it would if Fury and Jones were ever to meet. Conor McGregor’s 2017 clash with Floyd Mayweather showed what would happen if even an elite MMA striker were to step into boxing, against a world champion. The Irishman was stopped in the 10th round and, if Mayweather had decided differently on the night, the fight could have ended earlier.
At the level in question, and in the near future, we are unlikely to see a boxer dip their toes into the tempestuous waters of MMA. Boxers’ records and auras are everything to them. Those metrics be massacred in MMA.