Jones (27-1 MMA, 21-1 UFC) was forced to pull out of his first title defense against Stipe Miocic at UFC 295 when he tore his pectoral muscle. The promotion booked an interim title fight between Tom Aspinall and Sergei Aspinall instead, where Aspinall claimed the interim belt by first-round knockout.
With Jones expected to be sidelined for months, Aspinall said he should be stripped of his belt. But Smith, a former opponent of Jones and analyst for ESPN, says an all-time great like “Bones” has earned the right to keep his title.
“You all know how I feel about Jon Jones,” Smith told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a pre-fight news conference Wednesday. “I hate when you guys ask me questions where I have to say nice things about him. Jon Jones can do whatever the f*ck he wants. Really. He’s earned that.
“He’s not been known as a guy that pulls out of fights. For whatever anybody says about him, he’s never strayed from a challenge. He’s always taken on the next best guy. I think in terms of him and Stipe, I think both those guys should be able to do whatever they want. I think that they’ve earned it. I think that they deserve it.”
Miocic is widely considered the greatest heavyweight of all time. UFC CEO Dana White said the plan is to rebook Jones vs. Miocic, and Smith, who lost to Jones by unanimous decision at UFC 235 in March 2019, thinks a matchup of that magnitude should remain intact.
“Do we really want to miss another super fight?” Smith said. “How long did we talk about Anderson Silva and GSP (St-Pierre)? Anderson and Jon Jones, and Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and whoever. We’ve done this back-and-forth, we want all these super fights and now we have the opportunity for one and everyone’s calling for Jon to get stripped of his title.
“Let’s not f*ck this one up. Let’s just let him heal up. I know it makes absolutely no sense for there to be an interim champion and Jon to defend against someone who’s not, but we’re not like other sports. We can kind of change the rules sometimes and just give the fans and the people what they want.”
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