Jon Jones arrived in the UFC a 20-year-old kid, that nobody knew.  Three years later, he stands at the top of the mountain, a champion, an icon and a once in a lifetime talent.  Jon Jones is years ahead of schedule.  People spoke of a torch passing, instead, it was a torch mugging and the old guard of MMA should be on high alert.

Three years ago the average age of the UFC Champions was over 31.  Now, three years later, the average age of UFC Champions is 27.  It is proof positive that we are in the midst of a recycling of talent in our sport.  Jon Jones and Jose Aldo lead the way being 23-year-old champions.  The only title holder over 30 is Anderson Silva.  The MMA times, they are a changing.

Rather than covering all the young champions, instead Jon “Bones” Jones is the focus here.  He’s young, athletic, charismatic and can’t possibly be in any better position within the sanctified halls of the UFC.  In case you missed it, he appeared on the Jay Leno show Thursday night and was very comfortable and charming there as well.

Jon Jones is a game changer, a true once in a lifetime combination of skills, mass appeal and what marketing guys will tell is, “The It Factor.”  Nobody can ever definitively tell you what “It” is, but when you have “It” you’re good to go.  Jon Jones will likely hold onto the Light Heavyweight belt until, oh I don’t know, let’s say 2018 at which point, he’ll be too big a movie star to focus on his fighting career.  He’s MMA’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and he’ll spend the next few years growing into the role.

The day of the Matt Hughes no-personality champion is over.  You have to have  character to crossover in today’s sports world.  You can’t rely on a country breakfast, a ton of skill and simply become a megastar.  Those days are gone like Mark Coleman’s ground and pound and Cro Cop’s head kick.

Now it’s about being a superstar in and out of the cage.  You have to have the right look, and you have to be able to get and hold the attention of a generation of people who between social media networks, smart phones and streaming movies and TV literally wait for nothing.  The business of being a UFC fighter has never been more about marketing than it is right now.

Here’s why Jon Jones is unlike anyone else in the UFC.  His talent is on another level from everyone in the UFC with the possible exceptions of Jose Aldo, Georges St Pierre and Anderson Silva.  Jose Aldo and Anderson Silva have language issues, because face it, nobody wants to hear or see Edward Soares do anything in the Octagon and that includes answering Joe Rogan’s questions for fighters that can’t or won’t speak English.  Jon Jones has been labeled, “The next Muhammad Ali” and it fits.  He’s the biggest star in the sport, and has the potential to be among the biggest stars in sports, period.

You reach a point in any sport’s growth where certain fighters transcend and become crossover mainstream celebrities.  Chuck Liddell dabbled in fame.  GSP is dabbling in fame.  Jon Jones is going to do a cannonball into it.  He’s going to be the biggest star in MMA, and one of the biggest stars on the planet.

Jon Jones is changing the game, adapt or find shelter in his shadow.

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