Jacksonville, North Carolina native Marcus Jones has always been a great athlete. Jones became a college football star at the University of North Carolina, where he became a collegiate All-American in both his junior and senior seasons before becoming a first round NFL draft selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995. Jones played well during his NFL stint, highlighted by an outstanding season in 2000 where Marcus totaled 13 sacks. After his NFL career, Jones began training at Gracie Tampa. He first tested the waters of professional MMA in October of 2007 and has compiled a record of 4-1. Earlier this year the 36-year-old fighter was selected to participate as a contestant in season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, which begins airing on Wednesday, September 16th on SPIKE TV. Speaking of which, good news is in store for MMA For Real readers. We will be staying in contact with Marcus throughout the airing of TUF season 10 to get his thoughts on the episodes. Stay tuned throughout the season to hear what Marcus has to say! I recently caught up with Marcus to find out more about what got this North Carolina native and former gridiron star into the sport of MMA:
Rich Wyatt: You've been involved with the sport of football for most of your life. How long have you followed the sport of MMA?
Marcus Jones: I have followed MMA since 1996, during the early days of the UFC and Pride.
Rich Wyatt: As I understand it, there was a specific moment when you decided that you wanted to start learning MMA. Can you tell us a little about that?
Marcus Jones: The moment was after the Randy Couture-Tim Sylvia fight. I was on vacation with my best friends from college. We decided to stage a fight in the hotel room. My best friend was taking Kempo at the time and he whooped the dog snot out of me. The next day I called Gracie Tampa and signed up for jiu-jitsu.
Rich Wyatt: With your size and athletic background, you're obviously going to have some physical advantages over other heavyweight fighters. How long did it take for you to start getting more comfortable in both training and in fights with trusting your technique?
Marcus Jones: Seeing as how I am still new at the fight game, the technique is the last thing that comes. But I am improving every day.
Rich Wyatt: How do you feel that you have progressed as a fighter in the past couple of years?
Marcus Jones: I feel that I've progressed as a fighter because jiu-jitsu is my first love and the only reason that I have excelled in jiu-jitsu is because I have an excellent teacher in Rob Kahn. He makes learning jiu-jitsu simple so that it becomes easy to learn.
Rich Wyatt: What do you feel are your biggest strengths as a fighter and what area of your game do you focus the most on improving?
Marcus Jones: My biggest strength is my grappling and my judo takedowns. The one thing I need to work on most is my striking ability.
Rich Wyatt: Who are some of the coaches and fighters that you work and train with at Gracie Tampa?
Marcus Jones: I train with cardio and striking coach Jeremy Thurlow everyday. He helps tie my jiu-jitsu and ground and pound game together. He also pushes me on a daily basis when I may not feel like doing it that day. Rob Kahn is my jiu-jitsu instructor. He is one of the first black belts under Royce Gracie. He's one of the best. Adam Kantor is my wrestling coach. He was a coach for the national wrestling team. My judo throws come from watching Karo Parisyan in the cage.
Rich Wyatt: When you left the TUF season 10 tryouts earlier this year in Washington did you feel like you had made the cut?
Marcus Jones: The tryouts in Washington were probably the only reason why I did make the cut. Unlike most of the guys who were there, my background in fighting was limited. I believe that my three submissions that day in the opening tryouts were the most of all the heavyweights there. I feel like it was the only reason that I got a call back. You only had two minutes to catch the eye of the judges. If you have any ground skills, that's all you should need.
Rich Wyatt: I know that you can't give much away about the upcoming season yet, but what was it like living with some of these guys and being around the coaches, Quinton and Rashad?
Marcus Jones: Sorry, man, but unfortunately I can't discuss the show until after it airs. But I did learn a lot from it.
Rich Wyatt: Was there a lot of drama in the house or was everything kept pretty professional for the most part?
Marcus Jones: You had 16 guys battling for one spot. It was very competitive but, as for me, I tried to just be myself.
Rich Wyatt: What was the most difficult part of the whole reality show experience?
Marcus Jones: Not knowing. Not knowing who you were going to fight. Not knowing when you would fight. And not being familiar with the skill-set that the other competitors possessed. And, of course, being away from my wife and kids was tough.