NBA player James Johnson believes he can defeat Jon Jones with just one year of training.
The reigning UFC heavyweight champion is currently preparing for his title defense against fellow legend Stipe Miocic at Madison Square Garden in New York on November 11. Despite the rising contenders in the heavyweight division, Jones is currently more interested in pursuing a crossover bout with boxing superstar Tyson Fury.
However, if that potential matchup doesn't materialize, a novelty fight with Johnson might be on the horizon. The NBA power forward, standing at an imposing 6'8" and weighing 240 pounds, exudes confidence that his physical attributes can pose challenges for Jones once he acquires some wrestling skills.
Johnson boasts a lifelong background in martial arts, holding a black belt in karate. He also claims an undefeated record in both kickboxing (20-0) and MMA (7-0), although these bouts lack documented evidence beyond his statements.
"I think I could beat him for real," Johnson expressed during an appearance on former NBA star turned broadcaster Ryan Hollins' NBA Rookie Life show. "I would need a year. My standup game is great, but what we all know about Jones is he's a collegiate wrestler - really good on the ground, and that's not my forte."
He continued, "I think I could beat him, for real. But like I said, with a year of training defense. I just need ground defense. He started learning how to use your hands and your feet - what? - after college? Like, I've been punching and kicking since I was five or six years old."
Johnson emphasized the contrasting backgrounds, noting that Jones has a lengthy history in wrestling, while he has extensive experience in striking. He added, "The same thing for me is the opposite for him because he's been wrestling for that long. Learning all his wrestling moves - as long as I can keep him from going to the floor, I win."
While Jones is deeply entrenched in his training camp and unlikely to respond to Johnson's challenge at this moment, the prospect of a lucrative payday to silence a vocal NBA star could potentially entice the MMA icon once he faces Miocic later this year.