Clinton “Ton” Jones loves the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and will do pretty much anything to ensure he doesn’t miss a fight.
“I had gotten this projector out of a unit and at the time I was working in a machine shop making archery parts,” Jones said. “I busted out my DirecTV satellite dish, used the little head unit from my truck and put the projector up on the wall. We had a 35-foot screen watching the fights that night.”
“We love this, and we don’t miss the fights.”
Jones, one of the stars of Spike TV’s Auction Hunters, recently chatted with Joe Rizzo and Hector Castro on a special edition of Rear Naked Choke Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. Season Two of Auction Hunters is set to premiere Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.
Jones is a massive UFC fan that has been glued to the television ever since the bare-knuckle days of UFC 1. He counts Chuck Liddell among his all-time favorites and is a fan of Nick Diaz, Randy Couture and Georges St. Pierre. With Spike also being one of the UFC’s cable partners, Jones has been able to get closer to the action than ever before.
“I was sitting there at the Edgar-Maynard fight (UFC 125) and here comes one of the legends of the UFC, Forrest Griffin, coming to sit down next to me,” Jones said. “I was awestruck, and his demeanor was so chill and down to earth. That dude rocks.”
After a successful eight-episode first season that took place throughout Southern California, Auction Hunters was picked up for a second season by Spike, and since then Jones and his partner, Allen Haff, have been traveling across the country filming. The one downside to being on the road, however, is that seeing every fight is a little difficult.
“It’s a little maddening on this road trip being up crazy hours, driving non-stop from town to town,” Jones said. “It’s so much fun that I can’t even believe it, but the thing that bums me out is I’m missing some of the fights I wanted to go to this year.
“I’m trying to get up to UFC 129 (St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields). GSP has been one of my favorite fighters and I want to see him just work that dude.”
Jones originally got into storage auctions to make some quick cash and support another venture he had going. An expert on weapons, currency and precious metals and stones, Jones was able to make good money on the items he found in various units and began putting more and more time into auction hunting.
He had known Haff for about a year, but only because they had been going at each others’ throats in competition. One day, after Jones had bought a unit and was separating valuable and invaluable items, Haff taught him a lesson that changed everything.
“I bought this unit and I’m putting all these dishes to the side that I’m just going to use as target practice instead of going out and buying clay pigeons,” Jones said. “Allen was like, ‘What are you doing? I can turn that stuff into bank’ To me it was just skeet for a Friday night.
“He said I didn’t know what I was throwing away and I said if they’re so good why don’t you sell them. We agreed to split the profits and in a week and a half he turns it into $1,500 cash. I felt like a dumb-ass.”
They’ve been partners ever since, and it’s their knowledge of different items that makes them such a dynamic duo. Haff is a second-generation antiques dealer that can spot a valuable item among heaps of clutter and has an impressive knowledge of just about anything worth money.
“He blows me away with some of the stuff he just pulls out from the back of his mind like a filing cabinet,” Jones said. “Together we are a lethal team.”
Jones and Haff have turned some hefty profits off storage units, and Season One showed off their skills and inspired a lot of people to get out there and try to make some money.
The process of auctioning a storage unit begins when the owner hasn’t paid their bill. According to Jones, after about a month the owner will be informed that their unit will go up for auction on a certain date and they have until the morning of the auction to pay the bill. If they do not, the unit is auctioned off – usually 45-90 days from the last payment – because the storage company is losing money and needs to recoup some of that cash. Personal paperwork and family photos are left behind and given to the storage facility to return to the original owner, but the rest of the items must be taken away, and in most cases the storage unit must be swept clean.
Jones and Haff have proven there is money out there to be made off these auctions, but the process isn’t as easy as they make it look. They have incredible knowledge and they use it wisely. Because you can’t browse through the items before you buy the unit, you’re going off whatever you can see from the door. It’s gambling, essentially, and often times people will bite off more than they can chew.
“My advice to anyone getting into this business is to take it slow,” Jones said. “Buy what you know and never spend more than you can afford to lose, because one bad unit can put you in the hole for a very long time.”
Like any business, there are tricks of the trade in auction hunting that lead to a successful purchase. Being smart about what you buy and how much you spend is part of it, but being able to infer certain things about the unit and thinking outside the box can be the biggest difference in finding hidden treasure or nothing but duds.
“About 90 percent of the battle is if you can figure out in a basic idea who and what was in that room,” Jones said. “Our worst nightmare is buying a unit with fancy boxes and they turn out to be paperwork from a business and we just paid four or five-grand for it. It’s about bidding on what you know and can see and not for more than you can afford.
“People see XBox and PlayStation boxes in here all the time, but what people do when they get a new one is they put the box in the garage. The garage gets full, and you want to save the box in case something happens to the game and now it gets thrown into storage. People are bidding on empty boxes. You crack that thing open and it’s empty and you just paid $500. That’s how you lose your butt.”
It wasn’t easy for Jones to initially make contacts in the auction business, however. His nickname of “Ton” isn’t just the last three letters of his first name. At 6-foot-3 and 380 pounds with head tattoos, Jones is a pretty intimidating presence. Looks, however, can be deceiving.
“I’ve spent the better part of my life doing reptile rescue and rehabilitation,” Jones said. “The only reason I got into auctions was to make a buck and support my reptile rescues.”
Jones works with bobcats, mountain lions and venomous snakes.
“I definitely have a soft spot for wildlife and exotic animals,” Jones said. “They can’t stick up for themselves at a certain point. I’m an avid hunter but I don’t illegally poach for fun. If you’re going to eat the meat and use the animal then hunt all you want, but if you’re shooting a tiger for a coat that’s not cool.”
As if the stress of bidding on storage units and risking serious sums of money wasn’t enough, you would think a life filled with venomous snakes and killer cats could only be fun for a wild man. Jones has a different view.
“A lot of people look at me like I’m on the edge all the time, but I’m pretty chill for the most part,” Jones explained. “The best part of my day is to get up and be feeding the bobcats and the alligators and one of those cats lets out a roar. Man, the animal is super powerful, and there has to be a lot of concentration on what you’re doing. Everything else going on around you doesn’t matter, there could be bombs going off and you are focused. That one-on-one time with these animals levels me out and brings me my own peace.”
Being on the road constantly not only makes it hard for Jones to get to his favorite fights in person, it makes watching his own show difficult. They don’t get to watch any episodes before they are released because they are constantly busy, so it is months after when they finally air that Jones and Haff get to go back and see the finished product.
“We get wrapped up in the moment and you don’t realize what’s going on at the time,” Jones said. “When you dump five or six-grand in one session that’s pretty stressful, and it’s nice to go back and see all the little moments.
“I’m going to be sitting back on the set trying to catch up on my own episodes.”
Time is of the essence for “Ton” Jones when he’s on the road, but at least he’ll know exactly what to do with the next projector he finds.