Meet the UFC star who emulated Conor McGregor looking to build legacy
Mason Jones is the first Cage Warriors Champ-Champ since Conor McGregor and impressed on his UFC debut with a Fight of the Night display… but the Welsh Dragon – who is inspired by Sir Francis Drake – is bidding to build his own legacy inside the octagon
- Welsh fighter Mason Jones has entered the UFC with high expectations
- The Dragon is the first Champ-Champ at Cage Warriors since Conor McGregor
- However, the 26-year-old is looking to forge his own legacy with the UFC
- Lightweight fighter Jones says he aspires to replicate Sir Francis Drake
- Jones is in action this weekend at UFC Apex as he searches for his first UFC win
Mason Jones is used to being recognised by locals in his hometown of Blaenavon, South Wales, but it was an encounter on a domestic flight in the United States that demonstrated his steady rise in popularity.
‘I am starting to get people in the US recognising me,’ the Welshman tells Sportsmail. ‘I actually got recognised on a flight the other day from Sacramento to Vegas when I was flying out to visit the PI [Performance Institute].
‘The guy who was sat next to me kept staring at me and asked if I was Mason Jones and he loved my fight against Mike [Davis]. Some guy recognised me in the mall the other day so I am on the right path.’
Mason Jones (right) entered the UFC with high expectations having signed from Cage Warriors
It is surely only a matter of time before UFC fans become fully aware of Jones and what he brings to the octagon. The Dragon, 26, earned a Fight of the Night bonus following his narrow points decision defeat to Davis on his UFC debut in January, a fight that was shortlisted in the promotion’s top 10 fights of the opening quarter of 2021.
That defeat was the first of his professional career, having been signed from Cage Warriors with a perfect record of 10 wins and no losses, although his gritty performance won him a legion of new fans.
However, Jones insists that he is yet to showcase his true potential on the big stage.
‘It was a very poor performance from my behalf,’ the lightweight fighter maintains. ‘I felt like I only performed at 40 per cent, even though it was a close fight I was only at 40 per cent. There’s never any excuses on fight night but you really are going to see a different level to what I can do.
The Welshman is one of a legion of British fighters looking to make waves on the biggest stage
However, Jones (left) is different, and is the first fighter since Conor McGregor (right) to be crowned Champ-Champ with Cage Warriors
‘Nerves definitely wasn’t one of them, I never get nervous. I was just so excited to make the walk. On the day I didn’t recover well from the weight cut. Some of the stuff I did leading up to it I was sort of too fatigued and I just didn’t perform well, that’s what it comes down to.
‘No matter how I felt, I still should have won and I just made an accumulation of errors that resulted in a loss. It doesn’t change anything for me, it just adds more pressure because if I don’t win this fight, I put myself at risk of being cut.
‘For most people that extra pressure would cause them not to perform well but for me I thrive on pressure, I never really get nervous, it doesn’t affect me. All that matters is that I go out there and get that win.’
The UFC is being introduced to swathes of British hotshots looking to announce themselves on the big stage, but none have arrived with the pressure on Jones’ shoulders.
Despite his connection with McGregor, the Dragon insists that he ‘sees targets, not idols’
Jones wants to emulate ‘pirate’ Sir Francis Drake in conquering abroad and bringing his riches home
Last year, the 26-year-old achieved a feat that only Dan Hardy and Conor McGregor have done before him: become two-weight world champion with Cage Warriors. Despite joining an exclusive club with two big names in the UFC, Jones says his Champ-Champ status simply adds to his legacy.
‘I don’t ever see it as a negative thing,’ Jones insists. ‘It doesn’t weigh me down, it helps push me up.
‘It is another foundation that I am going to build a legacy from. The Cage Warriors Champ-Champ fight was a legacy fight for me, now all there is for me to do is to secure my foundations and start my climb to the top of the UFC.’
Naturally, Jones’ Champ-Champ status with Cage Warriors has seen comparisons made with Irish superstar McGregor.
With so many up-and-coming fighters looking to emulate the path taken by the Notorious, it is hardly surprising that the 32-year-old is idolised by some youngsters.
Yet Jones insists that he admires no other fighter, with the 26-year-old taking inspiration from a rather unique source.
‘I really don’t believe in idolising anyone,’ he says. ‘I don’t see idols, I only ever see targets. The thing with idolising, people try to live other people’s lifestyles. I have never been that type of person.
Jones made his UFC debut on Fight Island in January, suffering his first defeat as a professional
The 26-year-old says he was ‘only at 40 per cent’ against Mike Davis in their Fight of the Night
‘Whenever I was asked that question [about role models] at school I would always go with Sir Francis Drake. He was a pirate who did what he wanted and was endorsed by the Queen because he brought a lot of money back, and that is the way I want to live my life.
‘It has worked out well for me so far and something I really want to do. I never idolise or see things in people.
‘We are from a beg, borrow or steal system where you do everything you can to advance and that is the way we have always been and that is the way we are always going to be.’
Jones’ personality radiates over the phone in Las Vegas, and the Welshman has shades of the big personalities that have flourished in the sport.
Jones adds that he relishes the pressure of needing a win following his defeat on Fight Island
A fighter’s ability to smooth-talk their way into big fights has often reaped huge benefits, but Jones stresses that he will not compromise his values to reach the top of the UFC.
‘I am not the type of person who is going to be changing who I am to fit an image that they want,’ the Dragon adds. ‘I am going to stick to my values and do what I think is right.
‘I am an exciting fighter, so I am going to do what I do best, and that is go out there and focus on winning these fights and beating the best in the world and earning my way up the ladder.’
That all starts on Saturday night, of course, as Jones returns to action to take on UFC veteran Alan Patrick. The 37-year-old boasts an abundance of experience at the top level, having fought in the UFC for the last 10 years, but the Brazilian has lost his last two fights on the trot and Jones is hoping to make it three.
The Dragon is back in action on Saturday in Vegas, where he takes on veteran Alan Patrick
A win will set Jones on his way to climbing the lightweight mountain as he bids for the summit
‘I just think I’m cleaner, I’m sharper, I’m faster, I think I am smarter than him and I have got a really good game plan with the way I think the fight is going to go.
‘We will see how the fight goes, I have prepped extensively for it, I have done a lot of analysis, we have built a plan and everyone is happy with everything going in.
‘I am confident, I think he is probably confident but at the end of the day I think I am going to stop him within two.
‘It all starts with this fight on Saturday. There is no point in looking at anything ahead until you beat what is in front of you so I am just focused on beating Alan in Vegas on Saturday and after that everything else will line up for me.’
Jones is at the foot of the mountain, and while he has all the credentials to make it to the top, he must get up and running with a victory in Sin City.
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