Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones had just wrapped up his rookie year with the Ravens when the NFL’s owners locked out the players in 2011. Jones now says that if the lockout had gone any longer, he was prepared to try another sport professionally: mixed martial arts.
“I love MMA,” Arthur told John Morgan of the Indianapolis Star. “It’s fun to watch, and it’s something I entertained early in my football career if football didn’t work out, of me fighting in the UFC. But things are going well for me right now, so I’m going to stick with my career. I was supposed to take a fight when we had the lockout a few years ago. I was getting ready to schedule it, and I was training for it. Thank God for the other guy the lockout ended.”
Jones references potentially fighting in the UFC, but it seems unlikely that he could have done that with no experience in 2011. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the premier organization in mixed martial arts, and it’s very rare for fighters to debut in the UFC before first fighting in lower-level MMA organizations. Jones would also have to lose 50 pounds just to fight in the heavyweight division of the UFC, where the upper limit is 265 pounds.
However, it’s possible that the UFC would have made an exception for Arthur Jones because it would have given the UFC a lot of free publicity to have an NFL player in the Octagon. Jones’s younger brother Jon Jones won the UFC light heavyweight championship during the 2011 lockout, and so the UFC might have been interested in promoting a fight involving the big brother of their new champion.
Arthur Jones’s teammate Tom Zbikowski did some pro boxing during the lockout, so Jones wouldn’t have been alone if he had made some money as a fighter. But while Jones may believe the guy he was going to fight was lucky the lockout ended, Jones himself should be even more grateful: The five-year, $33 million contract Jones just got from the Colts is a whole lot more money than he would make fighting in a cage.