DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 24: (L-R) Jon Jones kicks Quinton "Rampage" Jackson during the UFC 135 event at the Pepsi Center on September 24, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)
Just a few hours before the biggest fight of his career, Jon "Bones" Jones was in a ghetto in New Jersey.
His pre-fight ritual is to find a nice park and meditate. On this day before UFC 128 in 2011, he was in a rundown neighborhood.
"There just happened to be this beautiful park right there in the middle of the ghetto," Jones said.
As Jones and his coaches pulled up to the park, the driver warned them they were in a rough area.
"We were all like, 'Dude, we're professional athletes here. We're pro fighters at that. I think we'll be OK,'" Jones said.
Before Jones could even get out of the car, a woman approached them in tears. She said a man just broke into her window, took her stuff and ran away.
Jones took off his seatbelt, got out of the car and went into a dead sprint in the direction the woman pointed.
He turned a corner and saw the suspect running.
His coaches were begging him to slow down and stop since his fight was just hours away and he could get injured.
But Jones didn't stop. He caught up to the man, kicked him in the back of the legs, took him down and held him until the police arrived.
"I had never done anything like that," Jones said. "I'm a person who has always looked out for other people."
Jones finished his pre-fight mediation and then faced Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC light heavyweight championship. Jones delivered a third-round knockout to win the UFC title belt and at age 23 became the sport's youngest champion.
Jones has defended his title twice since winning the belt last March. He'll do it again Saturday at UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Jones will face former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in the 205-pound weight class.
"At the end of the day, me and Rashad are both winners. We know how to win," Jones said. "I am the favorite, but I know Rashad is a winner. I know that's what I'm against.
"People want to see two winners go at it and which one has the most power, will and tenacity."
Jones grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where he played football and wrestled. His older brother Arthur plays defensive line for the Baltimore Ravens and his younger brother Chandler played at Syracuse and could be taken in the early rounds of next week's NFL draft. Jon Jones never got the football genes.
"I was too skinny, I couldn't catch the ball, I couldn't throw the ball, so they put me on the defensive line," Jones said. "No college wanted a 170-pound, 6-foot-4 lineman."
It was because of Jones' lanky stature that he picked up the nickname Bones. Although he didn't have the size for football, he excelled on the wrestling mat. Jones was a New York state champion and went to Iowa Central Junior College. He won a JUCO national championship in 2006 and was a Greco Roman All-American.
His wrestling career looked promising, but then Jones found out his girlfriend was pregnant.
He wanted to provide for his family so Jones quit college and began fighting.
"I didn't want to be selfish," Jones said. "I thought taking care of my girl was more important than finishing up my degree."
Jones went 6-0 to start his MMA career. The UFC took notice and after just eight months as a fighter, he was competing in the sport's most recognizable league. He won his first three fights and was disqualified in 2009 for illegal elbows to Matt Hamill. It's Jones' only defeat in his career.
"I don't think about it anymore. I'm over it," Jones said.
Jones rebounded nicely with knockouts in his next two fights. He was so impressive with his win over Ryan Bader that Jones was given the shot to fight for the UFC title against Rua.
It was the biggest fight of his career at that point and just hours before he stepped in the Octagon he was putting himself at risk to help another person.
When the cops arrived they told the woman who Jones was, an up-and-coming fighter in the UFC, and that he had a big fight later that night.
"She looked me in the eyes and said, 'God Bless you son. Thank you so much for caring. You're going to do well tonight,'" Jones said. "It was really reassuring to hear that from her."
Jones defeated former UFC champions Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida to defend his title last year. He's never been taken down and has won half of his fights by knockout. It's already an impressive resume to go along with being a crime fighter.
"(I want to be in the UFC) at least 10 more years," Jones said. "I want to be in the UFC history books, that's my goal."