Jon Jones. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC.
Following his submission victory over Ryan Bader at UFC 126 on Saturday night, rising UFC light heavyweight star Jon Jones was handed one of the biggest surprises of his life - a shot at champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Jones has accepted a short-notice fight against Rua at UFC 128 on March 19, which will take place at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
His training partner, Rashad Evans, who stayed on the sidelines since last May for a chance at regaining his title against Rua, will now be unable to train for 4-6 weeks due to a sprained MCL ligament and may require surgery at a later date.
"I knew Rashad was hurt, but I had no idea about my title shot," Jones said during UFC 126's post-fight press conference. "I feel for Rashad. People have this idea about him being arrogant and everything, but Rashad humbles himself to be the best training partner he can be. He's become a great role model for me."
Jones will now have six weeks to prepare for Rua, who despite undergoing yet another knee surgery over the last year, will have the benefit of a full training camp, albeit against a different opponent than expected.
"I usually use my training camps to get myself in shape," said Jones. "I'm already in shape. Greg Jackson actually told me to chill out. I'm already at my peak and he said that he doesn't need me to be there for the next six weeks."
Meanwhile, the change of opponent doesn't matter very much to "Shogun", who stated that his PRIDE career was filled with last-minute notice when it came to his fights.
When I fought in Japan, they would tell us our opponent only two weeks before the fight, so it's something I'm used to," Rua said. "Jones is tough and talented. He probably deserves a shot the most, but I'll do my homework and everything will be fine.
"I was preparing to fight Rashad but now a new opponent gives me more motivation to train even harder. As the champion, I really have to be prepared to fight anybody."
Jones will enter the fight on a three-fight winning streak. The 23-year-old has demolished all of his opposition to date with the exception of a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill in a fight he was handily winning. His path of destruction includes wins over Vladimir Matyushenko, Brandon Vera and Stephan Bonnar among others.
"Shogun" wrestled the UFC light heavyweight belt away from Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 last May, knocking out Machida and handing him his first professional loss following Machida's controversial decision win over Rua in the fall of '09.
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