Jones felt a wave of respect when he visited the Ravens' facility to give the team a pep talk in November, but he hasn't gotten the same reception in the MMA community.

UFC legend Chuck Liddell was one of the latest to take a swipe at Jones, telling Fox Sports this week that he would have "walked through his punches" if he fought Jones in his prime.

"I just look at it as flattery, really," Jones said when asked about those comments Thursday. "Just a few years ago I was a young kid in college looking at Chuck Liddell with my mouth wide open and looking at him like he was a god. And now I have him comparing himself to me and trying to stay relevant through me. ...

"I've gotten to the point now where I realize I'm not going to be a fan favorite. Maybe it'll change over time, but right now I'm not. I just need to embrace it and be comfortable with it."

Jones acknowledges there was a time when it did hurt that he wasn't more widely embraced. But — like he does with opponents using his 7-foot wingspan — he's learning to keep those distractions at a safe distance.

"On the way to this point it has been [painful], just always wondering, 'Why aren't I a fan favorite? Why am I getting criticized so hard all the time?' But at this point, it's really not painful at all," he said. "As long as I'm taking care of my family and breaking records and continuing to excel and continuing to find new endoresments — everything's working. ...

"Muhammad Ali was hated, and then he was loved at the very end. Floyd Mayweather was hated, and a lot of people are really coming around on him. So, I'm just trying to stay positive and try not to offend too many people along the way and hope for the best end result."

Jones an 'easy target'

Davis — who fights Anthony Johnson in Saturday's co-main event — wasn't taking the same approach Thursday. The former four-time All-American wrestler at Penn State seemed to be angling for a title shot as he launched an over-the-top round of trash talk about Jones.

He called Jones "chicken" a number of times, compared him to a Chick-fil-A sandwich and said repeatedly that Jones would be afraid to fight him. He even pulled out his cellphone to show reporters a video of him dissing Jones on a recent conference call.

"Not only is he an easy target, but he's the champ, and he needs to learn that I soon will be the champ," Davis said.

When asked if Jones is the best pound-for-pound fighter, Davis didn't miss a beat in responding: "On who's scale? On a man's scale or a chicken's scale?"

As much as he squawks, Davis isn't on Jones' radar yet. White made it pretty clear Thursday that, if he beats Teixeira, Jones is likely ticketed for a rematch with Gustafsson and then would probably face either Daniel Cormier or Dan Henderson.

And running that gantlet would remove any doubt about Jones, White said.

"If this kid wins the next three fights ... it's already hard not to call him the greatest light heavyweight ever, but what do you call him after that?" White said.

"He's on his way to being possibly the greatest ever. Whether you like Jon Jones or you don't like Jon Jones, you can't deny what he's done. What he's done is unbelievable."

david.selig@baltsun.com

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Jon "Bones" Jones

Age: 26

Height: 6 feet, 4 inches

Weight: 205 pounds

From: Rochester, N.Y.

Fights out of: Endicott, N.Y.

College: Iowa Central

Brothers: Arthur Jones (defensive lineman for Indianapolis Colts) and Chandler Jones (defensive lineman for New England Patriots)

Upcoming fight: Faces Glover Teixeira for the UFC's light-heavyweight title at Saturday's UFC 172 at Baltimore Arena