The Good Fight

On the same day he stopped a mugging, Jon Jones became the youngest UFC champ ever. Elizabeth Weinberg for ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the May 30, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

A FEW HOURS BEFORE the biggest fight of his life, UFC star Jon "Bones" Jones and two of his coaches pull into a public park in Paterson, N.J. No matter the city or the opponent, before each fight, Jones seeks out a tranquil location to clear his mind, center himself and borrow energy from the surrounding beauty. Somewhere inside this lush Garden State park, a wooden bridge spans a stream beside a powerful waterfall. That seems like just the place to transport a man far from Newark's Prudential Center and the pressures of a first career title bout.

But before Jones can even undo his seat belt, he hears a woman's scream. Looking out the car window, he sees an older couple run past, shouting in Spanish and motioning toward another man several yards ahead. Jones had been warned that the park sits in a rough neighborhood known for gang violence and muggings. And now he's witnessing one.