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ROSEMONT, Ill. – T.J. Jones isn’t disputing he got beat by Jake Hager on Saturday night. But he’s also not buying Hager’s post-fight excuse for what appeared to virtually everyone to be a late release of a choke.
Hager (2-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) forced Jones (1-2 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) to tap to an arm-triangle choke in the first round of their heavyweight fight at Bellator 221 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., near Chicago. But it took referee Mike Beltran four seconds or so to get Hager to let go of the choke from on top – including yelling at him to “let go.”
Hager said afterward that he thought Beltran prying at his left arm trying to get him to release the choke was Jones fighting the hold – even though Jones already had tapped.
Jones seems to have his doubts.
“When the ref goes to pull you off, let go,” Jones told MMA Junkie after the fight. “I understand I talk a lot, and I understand the emotions can get kind of high. But you have to be professional. You have to shake my hand, give me a hug, tell me, ‘Hey, good fight, buddy.’ You beat me up.
“He didn’t do that. He tried to hurt me more. This sport’s dangerous. You’ve got to be very smart, you’ve got to care about your opponent’s health. I cared about his health. You don’t want to see stuff like that, and that got to me a little bit.”
In the build-up to the fight, Jones razzed the former WWE champion on social media. At a pre-fight news conference, when asked a question about his experience being on the dais with some of Bellator’s biggest names, he said: “You’ve got nothing but world-class champions up here, and then you’ve got Jake.”
At the ceremonial weigh-ins, Jones mocked Hager’s famed “We the people” chant from his WWE days as “Jack Swagger.” Then yelled at him, “It doesn’t matter!”
Hager admitted after the fight that Jones’ trash talk got under his skin. And that, Jones said, should have come as old hat to him.
“He spoke to me after, and he said he thought I was trying to hit him. But the ref is clearly trying to pull you off,” Jones said. “I hold absolutely no remorse against him whatsoever, but maybe my talking got to him a little bit – which is crazy, because he’s the WWE guy.
“I just wanted to remind him and everybody that he’s only 1-0, and in the world of MMA we might be a little bit closer than people are giving us credit for. Tonight, he proved he was better, and absolutely I take every hat I have off to him. After the fight’s over, after I tap out, once the ref pulls you off – get off me. I think that’s fair.”
For more from Jones, whose day job is at a beef plant, check out the video above.
News | MMA Junkie