POSTED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 9:58pm
UPDATED: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 12:45pm
Fort Bliss (U.S. Army) — It isn’t often Soldiers get to meet, greet and take a photo with an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, and it’s certainly a very special occasion when that fighter happens to be the current UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Jon “Bones” Jones.
Approximately100 Soldiers got that chance Friday at Soto Physical Fitness Center and the Bamford Dining Facility. At Bamford, Jones ate lunch with Soldiers who couldn’t believe Jones was really there. It wasn’t until they made their way to Jones’ table they realized it was really him. Jones greeted them with a “thank you for your service,” posed for photos and signed autographs.
Upon arriving at Fort Bliss, Jones took a helicopter tour of the post and its surrounding training areas. Jones looked excited about being on the helo and listened diligently to Maj. Joseph Buccino, deputy public affairs officer, 1st Armored Division, who gave the tour to the champion and his entourage.
“This is unbelievable, it’s so surreal,” said Jones as the chopper took off from the 1 AD Headquarters. “I absolutely love the military,” he said as Buccino explained how Soldiers use the training areas available in and around the post dubbed, “The best-kept secret in the Army.”
Right after returning from the helicopter tour, Jones visited Soto Physical Fitness Center where he greeted an excited group of Soldiers who had been waiting for his arrival. Jones told them he was very excited to see them and thanked them for their service.
Following his brief words of gratitude, Jones invited the Soldiers to join him on the basketball court as he shook hands, chatted with them and signed autographs. Jones was then introduced to a group of wounded warriors, who had been waiting for him in the back of the gym. Jones expressed his sincere thanks to them for their sacrifice, shook hands, signed autographs and posed for photos.
“Before becoming a UFC fighter, I always thought about joining the military,” said Jones. “I always admired the military and what it means to serve the country.”
Once upstairs in the combatives gym at Soto, Jones met the Fort Bliss combatives team. He took the opportunity to show the Soldiers a couple fighting moves and told them to keep working hard.
The Soldiers couldn’t hide their excitement when they realized Jon “Bones” Jones was in their gym. Again, Jones signed autographs and posed for photos.
Soldiers who follow the UFC asked Jones about the chance of a fight between Jones and Anderson “The Spider” Silva, the former UFC middleweight champion. Jones said he fully expects that fight to happen in the near future.
“Silva is a super fighter,” said Jones. “After all, he’s been one of my heroes and someone I look up to. We have similar fighting characteristics and it would make for a great fight.”
Jones’ next fight is against the number-one contender and second UFC ranked light heavyweight fighter, Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson. The fight will take place Sept. 21 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. If he wins, it will mark his sixth title defense, making him the only fighter in UFC history to defend the light heavyweight title for six bouts Tito Ortiz who defended it five times.
When Jones was asked about the tumultuous relationship between him and estranged friend Rashad Evans, former UFC light heavyweight champion, Jones explained that as of late, they have begun to mend the wounds. According to Jones, Evans has been in contact with Greg Jackson, Jones’ trainer, and if Evans drops to middleweight as expected, he would like to have Evans back at the Jackson training facility.
“Thank you very much for this opportunity, I am very grateful for the experience,” said Jones to Buccino as he departed Fort Bliss. “I am very humbled and would love to come back in the future; let me know when you want me back here.”