Imagine a UFC video game where before trading blows in the octagon you could fight crime, chasing down muggers in the park, using your MMA skills to subdue the bad guy.
Funny as it sounds, that was real life for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones earlier this year as hours before fighting "Shogun" Rua for the belt, Jones and his trainers headed to a New Jersey park to meditate, heard someone smashing in an older woman's car window and ran to her aid before Jones took down the robber with a foot sweep.
That's probably the closest we'll ever get to Saints Row: UFC Edition, but it sure sounds like a winner to me.
And while it's been a few months since Jones went all Superman in Jersey, the 24-year old fighter has been busy, not only preparing for his showdown against Rampage Jackson this Saturday on pay-per-view, but trying to earn his way to the "UFC Undisputed 3" video game cover. THQ and the UFC are letting fans vote online for this year's cover athlete, and while Jones trails Anderson Silva early, he's hoping that after Saturday night's performance, he'll be able to sway some fans clicking his way before the voting period ends September 30.
"I'd love to be on the cover," Jones tells me as I catch him between press conferences to promote his fight. "I actually play video games so it would be a big honor. I love to play the UFC game, and I think I'd represent it well."
And while the man known as "Bones" is ecstatic with the way his character looks in the game, he's hoping for a significant skills upgrade by the time "UFC Undisputed 3" ships to stores in January.
"I love the way they make me look way more muscular than I actually am," Jones says, "but my takedown defense in the game stinks. Whenever I run into the creators of the game, I'm going to punch them. I'm going to give them a spinning back elbow right in the throat for that takedown defense rating.
"I get taken down all the time in the game. I've never been taken down in the UFC, I've never been taken down in my fight career, not once, and they gave me like a 70 for takedown defense. That's why I want the creators to know, when I meet them, it's going to be a spinning back elbow to the throat."
When I tell THQ of the threat, "UFC" designer Neven Dravinski responds that the ratings for the new game aren't finalized yet, and that up until release, they'll be updating the stats after every fight.
In other words, Jones should get a boost as long as Rampage doesn't take him down on Saturday.
"C'mon THQ, hook a brother up," Jones pleads with a laugh. "I'm a gamer, so this means a lot to me. I'm on 'UFC' and 'Call of Duty' all the time. Those are my favorites. That's all you need right there. I like to play as myself in 'UFC,' get my opponent in the clinch and throw them around like a rag doll."
And while Jones looks for his ratings increase, he's also hoping for some key gameplay improvements in "UFC Undisputed 3."
"I want them to add some devastating elbows to the ground and pound," says Jones. "I'm talking total devastation from an elbow. I also want to see more damage from leg kicks. The leg kicks need more respect. When you take a leg kick in a real fight, it only takes five of them to change everything. In the game, it doesn't do much to the other character. In the old games, you could leg kick the guy 12 times and he's still running around. I want the leg kicks to really count. After six or seven leg kicks, I want to see him moving slower."
Jones isn't the only one with that complaint, and that's why the design team went to great lengths this year to improve the damage done by leg kicks, including leg kick TKOs.
"That's sweet," Jones replies when I tell him. "It's such an important part of the fight, I'm glad they're finally getting it in the game."
As for his title defense this weekend, Jones says he anticipates a great fight and that he's even studied a video game simulation of the match-up to help give him an edge.
"I got a cool message from someone who put the game in simulation mode and had my character fight Rampage for a week straight," says Jones. "I need to use my takedowns and front kicks if I wanted to win like the simulation. I thought that was neat.
"The game's are getting so advanced, it's like getting a scouting report."