If you’re even a little familiar with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), you know Jon “Bones” Jones. He is a former two-time UFC light heavyweight champion (up to 205 pounds) and is considered by many to be the greatest of all time in the octagon. The man has had a title belt around his waist for a combined five-and-a-half years (March 2011 to April 2015 and December 2018 to August 2020). His second reign as champion, however, didn’t end because he got beat. He vacated it to gain weight to compete in the heavyweight division (over 205 pounds and up to 265 pounds).
The long, almost-lanky six-foot-four-inch tall Jones is already 40 pounds heavier than his previous competition bodyweight thanks, in part, to bodybuilder, powerlifter, and nutrition coach Stan Efferding. The two have been working together for the past few months, and it seems like a fruitful relationship thus far. Check out how Jones moves with his heavier physique in the video below posted to his Instagram page:
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Jon Jones and Stan Efferding
“Stan Efferding came out of nowhere and set #teamjones on fire,” Jones wrote in the caption of the above post. “I honestly feel like this was God‘s plan. I’m so happy and totally committed. Feel like I’m becoming a better man.”
Jones has the longest win streak in UFC history (18), but it is littered with a rocky history of failed drug tests and issues outside the octagon. His first title reign came to an end due to an indefinite suspension issued by the UFC following his guilty plea to a hit-and-run in Albuquerque, NM. “Indefinite” ended up meaning a year, after which he returned to win an interim title only to have it stripped following an anti-doping violation for banned substances. He repeated that sequence of suspension, return victory, doping violation two more times.
Nowadays, his focus is shifted fully on “weightlifting, gaining weight, and physical fitness” in a way that he believes displays growth in maturity. And he is doing so with the creator of the vertical diet. Efferding has worked with some of the biggest athletes in the world, both figuratively and literally. He was the nutrition coach for four-time World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Brian Shaw and 2018 WSM champion Hafthor Björnsson, who needed to be in elite competition shape while carrying 400-plus pounds on their frames. He devised Björnsson’s diet, which hovered around 8,000 to 10,000 calories every day during the back half of his competitive strongman career.
For Jones to make sufficient gains and be a competitive heavyweight, he’ll need to eat a caloric surplus (but obviously not as much as those strongmen). Eating the number of calories necessary to gain 40 pounds can take a toll on an athlete — it’s harder to digest that amount of food. Not everyone has an insatiable appetite. That’s where a plan akin to the vertical diet’s focus on aiding digestion and remedying micronutrient deficiencies can come into play. It isn’t clear if Jones follows the vertical diet. That said, a diet that eases discomfort while training will, presumably, allow Jones to pack on mass while moving comfortably.
In December 2020, Jones told ESPN, “Just because you gain some extra pounds doesn’t mean you’re ready to compete against these boys that were born that way. You’ve got to really take your time, find your body, find your feet, your new speed, your new rhythm.” Jones appears to be taking his own advice. Take a look at how he spars with his larger upper body in the video below from his Instagram page:
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Heavy Bones Jones
For context, the current heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is the same height as “Bones” but weighs 265 pounds. He actually has to cut to make the weight limit for his division. Then “The Predator” enters the octagon sporting what appears to be single-digit body fat. Ngannou’s next opponent Derrick Lewis — a perennial contender in the division — weighs 263 pounds. Some critics think that a lighter Jones (between 220-230 pounds) may be more dangerous. After all, the last champion to hold the belt, Stipe Miocic, weighed around 235 pounds and was praised for his footwork and gas tank. Clearly, Jones feels a need to gain weight.
The only indication of how Jones will fare at heavyweight are his two bouts with two-division champion and current UFC commentator Daniel Cormier. After fighting Jones twice at light heavyweight, Cormier moved up a weight class and claimed the belt. In their first fight, Jones edged out a decision victory over “DC”. Two years later, in 2017, Jones and “DC” fought again. This time, Jones landed a headkick that dropped Cormier and followed up with a barrage of elbow strikes. Shortly after, Jones tested positive for banned substances and the fight was ultimately ruled a “no contest.”
Jones’ current professional fight record stands at 26 wins and one loss, with 10 of those victories coming by way of knockout. His record would be flawless if not for his disqualification against Matt Hamill in December 2009. “Bones” is currently ranked number one in the sport’s overall pound-for-pound rankings — the system by which fighters are ranked (subjectively) compared to other fighters across weight classes.
The UFC has yet to announce a date or opponent for Jones’ heavyweight debut. Ngannou wants to fight Jones. Still, UFC President Dana White confirmed that that fight would not happen this summer as many previously speculated. Instead, White says the UFC is targeting a rematch between the current heavyweight champ and Lewis, who won their first bout via unanimous decision.
Whenever Jones and White can strike a deal for Jones’ heavyweight debut, the prized mixed martial artist seems to be prepared to fight the best (and heaviest) in the world. Efferding’s results working with elite talent speaks for itself. We’ll see if his prowess as a coach can post success for Jones in his world the way it did for Shaw and Björnsson in theirs.
Feature image: @jonnybones on Instagram