Jon Jones, regarded by many fans as the greatest mixed martial artist who ever lived, retained his title at UFC 247 Saturday night in Houston, but opinions on the outcome were anything but unanimous.
UFC President Dana White addressed what turned out to be a disputed decision.
“The scoring was all over the map,” White said. “My kids are terrorizing me that, ‘The fix is in, how did this happen?’
“People had it all over the place, but the reality is … we’re not judges. The judges call the fight, and that’s that. As far as the judging and the reffing tonight, do I think it was perfect? I do not. We need to do some work down here.”
White said UFC could work with the Texas commission to help improve the quality of judging and officiating.
Jones retained his light heavyweight belt following a surprisingly strong opening by Dominick Reyes.
The unanimous decision of 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 was met with scattered applause and loud boos from the crowd, as many viewers said the challenger had proven enough to take the title.
Even White noted that he thought Reyes had a 3-1 edge entering the final round.
“I do feel disrespected,” Reyes said. “One of the judges had it 49-46. Who are you? I might want to have a word with you. I know I won that fight.”
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White said he believed Reyes deserved a rematch.
Jones faced his most serious challenge in years.
“I wasn’t always confident that I was winning the fight,” Jones said. “I was confident that I wasn’t going to give up or slow down. I think I displayed the difference between a champion and an extraordinary contender. Something special happens when it’s time for the champion to present himself, and you guys saw it tonight in the fifth round.”
Jones (26-1-1) handed the fourth-ranked Reyes (12-1) his first loss, improving to 14-0 in title fights. He became the all-time leader in UFC title defenses, breaking the record previously held by Georges St-Pierre.
“I don’t think he was disrespected,” Jones said of Reyes. “I’ve got to watch the fight though. It’s hard to speak with confidence when I haven’t watched the fight.”
Jones was fighting for the first time since last July’s win over Thiago Santos at UFC 239, his longest period between fights in more than five years.
Reyes came out on the attack in the first round, briefly knocking Jones to the ground less than two minutes into the bout. Jones bounced back in the second round, landing several strong hooks to Reyes’ head.
The lively crowd swayed back and forth in support of either fighter, chanting both names at different points.
In the third round, Reyes landed blows to Jones’ head, and he drew blood early in the fourth round. Jones finished that round strong and the once-lively crowd became quiet and tense in anticipation of the final round.
Jones ramped up his attack in the final round, but Reyes seemed to keep enough separation from the champ to put it in the judges’ hands.
Reyes, a 30-year-old from Southern California who played college football at Stony Brook, said before the fight that he expected a victory and that it would be “life-changing.”
Instead, he was dealt a controversial loss and said he hoped to get a rematch.
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“For me, this is huge validation,” Reyes said. “This was my very first time going all five rounds, and it was against Jon Jones, arguably the greatest of all-time. And I put it on him. I mean, I really took it to him. I feel like I’m the peoples’ champ.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.