How Old Was Jon Jones When He Started MMA?

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In this article, we explore the remarkable journey of Jon Jones, one of the most talented and controversial figures in mixed martial arts (MMA). 

From his early beginnings at the age of 20, through his swift ascent to joining the UFC at 21, and becoming the youngest UFC champion at 23, Jones’ career is a tapestry of incredible achievements and pivotal moments. 

How Old Was Jon Jones When He Started MMA?

Jon Jones was 20 years old when he started his career in mixed martial arts (MMA). His journey into MMA began after a notable high school wrestling career and a brief stint in college athletics.

Jones first made his mark as a wrestler at Union-Endicott High School in Endicott, New York, where he achieved state championship status. 

This early exposure to wrestling at the age of 14 laid the foundation for Jones’ future in combat sports.

In addition to wrestling, Jones also played football during high school, where he was known for his lean physique, earning him the nickname “Bones” from his coach. He went on to use this nickname in the UFC.

His athletic prowess continued into college, where he won a national championship in wrestling at Iowa Central Community College.

Jones’s transition from wrestling to MMA occurred after he transferred to Morrisville State College to study Criminal Justice.

Why Did Jon Jones Start MMA (And Leave College)?

Jon Jones’ shift from collegiate wrestling to mixed martial arts (MMA) around 2007 can be attributed to a combination of personal preferences and a recognition of his potential in combat sports.

1. Disinterest in College Studies: Jones was studying Criminal Justice at Morrisville State College, but he didn’t find this path fulfilling. 

This lack of interest in his academic studies was a significant factor in his decision to explore other career options.

2. Confidence in Athletic Abilities: With a strong background in wrestling, including a national championship, Jones had confidence in his physical and athletic abilities. His excellence in wrestling gave him a solid foundation to build upon in MMA. 

3. Seeing MMA as a Viable Career Option: At 20 years old, Jones was at a crossroads, typical for many young adults. The burgeoning popularity of MMA and his potential in combat sports appeared as a more appealing and viable career path compared to continuing in a field he wasn’t passionate about.

4. Willingness to Develop New Skills: Recognizing the need to expand his skill set beyond wrestling, Jones was aware of the necessity to develop striking and jiu-jitsu skills to succeed in MMA. His decision to pursue MMA likely included a willingness to embrace this challenge and evolve as a martial artist.

How Old Was Jon Jones When He Joined UFC?

Jon Jones was 21 years old when he joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Jones made his UFC debut in August 2008, just 4 months after beginning his professional MMA career in April 2008.

He fought for FFP, Battle Cage Xtreme, ICE Fighter, USFL, and World Fighting Championship (WFC), securing 6 straight wins before earning a UFC contract.

During this early phase of his career (2008-2009), Jones trained with Team Bombsquad in New York, where he began to transition his wrestling skills into a more comprehensive MMA skill set. 

This period was crucial in developing the striking and grappling techniques that would later define his fighting style in the UFC.

This quick progression from starting MMA to joining the UFC is a testament to his exceptional talent and the strong foundation he had built through his wrestling background.

Wrestling was his only martial art at this time, meaning the striking and Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills he used were only learned at the start of 2008.

This early start in the UFC set the stage for Jones to become one of the youngest and most successful fighters in the history of the sport.

How Old Was Jon Jones When He Became UFC Champion?

Jon Jones was 23 years old when he became the UFC light heavyweight champion. He defeated Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua via TKO (Punches and Knees) in the 3rd round.

As of 2024, Jon Jones still holds the record as the youngest UFC champion of all time.

Jon Jones earned the title shot against Mauricio Rua by securing a 6-1 UFC record in around 2 and a half years. 

His only loss was a poorly officiated disqualification for the use of 12-6 downward elbows (straight down) against Matt Hamil, in a fight he was dominating and close to winning.

By the time of his championship win, Jones had evolved from a wrestler with raw potential into a well-rounded mixed martial artist. 

His ability to integrate striking, grappling, and unorthodox techniques set a new standard in the sport and contributed to his dominance in the light heavyweight division.

After his title win, Joe Rogan described him as the “present and the future”, and one of the most talented fighters the UFC had ever seen.

How Old Was Jon Jones When He Won His First Title/Belt?

Jon Jones was 23 years old when he won his first title and belt, in the UFC.

Before joining the UFC, Jon Jones didn’t win a title or belt in other MMA organizations. He entered the UFC with a professional record of 6-0, which was impressive enough to earn him a contract with the premier MMA organization. 

His early career outside the UFC was marked by his rapid succession of victories, showcasing his potential as a rising star in the sport.

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