The challenge of the moment behind him, Jon Jones turned his attention late Saturday night to a greater pursuit.
“My plan is to become the greatest fighter of all time, and it’s so feasible and attainable,” Jones said at his UFC 182 news conference after his unanimous-decision victory over previously unbeaten Daniel Cormier. All three judges scored it 49-46.
“I do believe 2015 will be the year I solidify that.”
Jones’ triumph gave him a UFC-best 12th consecutive victory and moved him two behind former middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s record 10 consecutive title defenses.
Jones (21-1) has beaten five former light-heavyweight champions during his current string of victories, and could very well be awaiting a July rematch with the man who gave him his toughest fight, Sweden’s Alexander Gustaffson.
Gustaffson will fight Anthony Johnson Jan. 24 in Stockholm, and UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that Saturday’s winner would fight the Gustaffson-Johnson winner.
Jones said he will live full time in Albuquerque, N.M., between now and his next bout, ensuring he doesn’t fall out of shape as he has tended to do between training camps when returning home to upstate New York.
“This next fight is going to be something else,” Jones said. “Expect whoever I fight next to have his hands full.”
Cormier, a former Olympic wrestler and Strikeforce heavyweight champion, did.
“I don’t know how to judge a fight. I know I lost and Jon won,” Cormier said, adding, “He’s a big guy, strong, hangs on you, and when he does, it starts to zap you later in the fight.”
UFC President Dana White said the first round was one of the best opening rounds he’s seen in a UFC title fight, and Cormier gave Jones problems in the second round, but admitted Jones “has a champion’s spirit … he took the momentum back.”
Cormier later grew teary-eyed, and said he knows “one way or another, I’m going to stand across the cage from that man again.”
Jones put aside acrimony with Cormier (15-1), saying he had respect for an opponent who continued to elevate the quality of his title reign.
In a 2010 meeting that spawned the bitterness of their rivalry, Jones told Cormier he’d bet he could take down Cormier in a fight. He did so in the first round by grabbing the challenger’s leg on a kick attempt and dropping him to the canvas.
In three vivid cases in the fourth round, he took Cormier down again.
“I came to the conclusion me getting the first takedown would set the tone,” Jones said. “He put all his eggs in one basket of being able to take me down. Once you get me down, then what are you going to do? I have a lot of pride in my jiujitsu.”
At 27, Jones seems “too young,” to have surpassed Silva and former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in the greatest-ever debate, UFC President Dana White said.
“I’ve had the toughest resume in the history of this sport,” Jones said. “I will keep Anderson and Georges above me. It will keep me honest, determined, driven.”
While a repeat victory over Gustaffson -- or a triumph over Johnson -- would further his cause, Jones also said, “I would love to fight [heavyweight champion] Cain Velasquez,” but declined to say when that would be.
“It will be the right opponent,” Jones said of his next fight. "And the right purse."