MMA fans love to hate UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but some mystery remains as to exactly why. His skills in the octagon are unprecedented — he puts on a great show with his versatility and unpredictability — but the fireworks are over once the he leaves the octagon.
Put a microphone in his hand and all of a sudden the hard hits, the surprise twists and the flashy maneuvers are nowhere to be seen and replaced by an even-keeled, soft spoken, mild-mannered voice. This inconsistency could be at the root of why Jones has inspired the ire of so many fans and might be turned around should the champ seek the advice of incendiary interviewee Nick Diaz.
Diaz is currently inactive yet remains a fan favorite because his antics outside the cage are equally as interesting as his behavior inside of it. Interviewers no doubt dread the guy because there really is no telling what degree of frustration they are going to face.
Jones should study Diaz, learning to mean mug journalists and ramp up the tension with long pauses, non sequitur answers and baffling proclamations. Instead of a winning smile and a genuine nice-guy demeanor he could try a viscous scowl and an infectiously poisonous attitude.
MMA is an ugly sport and fans tune in and pay to see blood, pain and agony. A well composed and eloquent fighter of Jones’ caliber is most likely a frustrating thing for an audience that identifies with meanness, gore and human monstrousness at its most animalistic.
Diaz can teach Jones about translating the physicality of what fans love about MMA into its verbal counterpart. Forget Instagram and Twitter. More interviews with prying MMA journalists are what can turn the Jones haters into loyal proponents. Learning to trail off mid-sentence, to avoid eye contact and to harbor genuine contempt for interviewers that turns them into stuttering trembling messes could go a long way for the Jones PR machine. Just ask Nick Diaz and Ariel Helwani.