In Toronto, Camille Jones will sit in the front row, her throaty shrieks of “Get ‘em Jonny!” reverberating inside the octagon.
She’ll have an undisputed rooting interest Saturday night when her son, Jonny – better known as Jon “Bones” Jones – defends his UFC light heavyweight championship.
“Oh, I know he’s going to win,” she said. “He’ll have his hand raised.”
Yes, momma really does say knock you out.
It’s the second sporting event in Baltimore as part of a family doubleheader that will truly test Camille and husband Arthur Jones’ fandom. After Jon Jones tries to go foot to face to take out Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC 152, brothers Arthur Jones, of the Baltimore Ravens, and Chandler Jones, of the New England Patriots, will meet on Sunday night.
It’s not quite Manning vs. Manning in a Super Bowl, or Williams vs. Williams at Wimbledon.
But no family can boast a triumphant trio of star siblings like the Joneses. The only tough call for their parents Sunday is picking a winner.
“I call Arthur, mommy’s little big baby. And there’s mommy’s little tiny baby, Chandler,” Camille said. “I’m torn about what team I’m going to root for.”
This band of brutish brothers, raised in New York by a pastor and a nurse, are each other’s biggest fans.
Arthur Jones, a 6-foot-3, 313-pound defensive end for the Ravens, is the oldest of the three and a scrapper like brother Jon.
Chandler Jones, 6-5 and 260 pounds, also is a defensive end and was New England’s first-round pick in the 2012 draft. Jon is regarded as among the best pound-for-pound fighters in UFC and became the promotion’s youngest champion when, at the age of 23 years 242 days, he beat Mauricio Rua at UFC 128 in February 2011.
The family already celebrated one fantasy sports week in April when the Patriots drafted Chandler the weekend after Jon won a unanimous decision over Rashad Evans. This will be a whirlwind 48 hours for Camille and Arthur, who will attend both events, in what should be a sports pinnacle for the family.
The Jones boys weren’t bred to become champions. Camille wasn’t shipping them off to sports academies. Arthur didn’t insist on grueling training sessions. Sure, dad brought home a wrestling mat so they could tussle in the basement, but around the house, the competitive streak kicked into overdrive more over video games or who snagged the last cookie, not who could nail the most 3-pointers on the court.
Ask the Joneses how they molded a trifecta of pro athletes and they’ll say it’s because the boys were held to high Christian standards and family life revolved around church. The parents would ask the boys if they wanted to end up like some of the troubled people they counseled or if they wanted to achieve something great. Even as coaches pleaded, the brothers weren’t allowed to play organized sports on Sundays, at least not until their junior or senior years of high school when the boys seemed set to earn college scholarships.
Church always came first, not games.
Jon Jones sang in the church choir and was one of the wise men in a church play. Chandler was technically in the choir, but would hide in the church bathroom until the singing was over. Arthur was the shy one.
All the men can quote scripture.
“It was never about winning,” as a kid, Jon said. “It was about doing what you love.”
Jon pursued his love of MMA even as it angered mom and dad. Camille and Arthur fervently objected to their son’s pounding profession. Camille was so aghast, she boycotted her son’s first six MMA fights, and cut him off financially.
“How do you explain it to a congregation when your son is out fighting,” Camille asked. “Other people would give us that holier than thou look.”
But, as his parents soon learned, one doesn’t get the nickname Bones by being timid in the ring. Jones won his first six MMA fights before he made his UFC debut with a win in the August 2008 pay-per-view card. His only pro loss in 17 career fights was a disqualification for an illegal elbow. He was winning bouts and winning over his parents with his dedication and success at his craft.
“Once I started bringing home $3,000 when I was like 19 or 20 years old,” Jones said, “they were like, OK.”
He proved to his family – and the sport – he could stand on his own and become a champion. And now, Camille would rather convert than miss her son fight.
Jon journeyed into MMA only because he needed quick cash in college when he was starting a family. But the Joneses knew in high school that Arthur was destined for an NFL career. Chandler was more of a late bloomer. Arthur even called Chandler “a little, fat, pudgy high school kid.”
That extra beef comes in handy in the NFL. Jon, who got the nickname Bones from high school friends for being tall and lanky, is envious of his brothers who don’t need to maintain strict diets or dedicate themselves to the type of daily rigorous training endured to prep for a UFC fight.
“I think if Arthur and Chandler took my mixed martial arts approach to each game, they’d be at a whole different level than what they are at now,” Jon Jones said. “Fighting is such a journey. I feel like football is more game by game. MMA is lifestyle. You need to be obsessed with getting better and being the best. If was a football player, I’d hate the guy I share a position with.”
At 25, Jones knows he can’t fight forever in this brutal sport, where the long-term health consequences could prove as dire as in football. He hasn’t ruled out following in his father’s path and becoming a pastor. His father is pastor at Mount Sinai Church of God in Christ, in Binghamton, N.Y.
How does Reverend Bones sound?
“I’m so far from being perfect, I’d feel like a hypocrite trying to really tell other people what they need to do to be closer to Christ,” Jones said. “One day, when I live a more responsible and mature life, maybe I can be. In the future, when I mature more, sure.”
Bound by brotherly love, guided by faith, there really is no keeping up with the Joneses.