Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 is a date that will be remembered as the day that one of mixed martial arts finest talents lost his chance to be transcendentally great. Jon “Bones” Jones, the most dominant champion in light heavyweight history, and number one pound for pound king was stripped of his title and suspended indefinitely by the UFC Tuesday night after Albuquerque police arrested him on a suspected hit and run.
After an accident left a young pregnant woman injured with a broken arm, Jones (allegedly) fled the scene of the crime. Jones ran a red light and crashed with two vehicles, he immediately took off, but then ran back and stuffed a large amount of cash into his pockets, as he went to run off again an off-duty police officer identified Jones and after the police were notified of the woman’s injuries, the misdemeanor was upgraded to a felony and and a warrant was written for his arrest. The punishment he’s facing is unclear at this moment, although Jones was released on $2,500 bail, the charges are not set in stone, but it is possible he can face up to three years of incarceration.
Everyone involved can agree, this is not a good look for the UFC, and definitely not good for Jon Jones. Jones’ past run-ins with the law and personal problems outside the octagon are all very well-known at this time. DUI, getting in a brawl at a press conference, testing positive for cocaine; not very good PR for a man who may be the biggest star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. At this point in time, Jon Jones’ problems are very far from over, but the UFC might have done the biggest possible favor in his life by removing him from his title fight at UFC 187, suspending him and stripping the 205 pound belt.
Since the night of March 19th, four years ago, when Jon Jones originally took the light heavyweight strap from then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, it was said that this young man could be great, barring any acquiescence to temptation. The beating that Jones put on Rua was equal parts amazing, and just plain hard to watch, and the aura surrounding UFC 128 immediately after Jones’ performance was that he was already one of the top pound for pound fighters in the sport. Jones did his part for the better part of a year, but on May of 2012 he tasted his first serious run-in with the law after he crashed his Bentley into a telephone pole and was charged with driving while intoxicated. Plea bargains were made, fines were paid and Jones kept dominating opponents in impressive fashion until 2015.
After Jones’ last fight, the long anticipated grudge match against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182, it was revealed that Jones had tested positive for cocaine during his training camp a few weeks prior. However, due to strange circumstances surrounding the test, there were no significant repercussions, but all these snafus were relatively mild compared to last weekend’s ordeal.
Jon Jones is a one of a kind marvel that come perhaps once, maybe even two or three lifetimes. Jones length, his athleticism, and just overall sense of getting the game is outstanding, the man is an absolute natural. The improvements he made from his UFC debut to even his next fight were astonishing. The sky really was the limit for Jones, even as the champion, he still seemed to be getting better with each fight.
The hit and run incident was being discussed in many matters. People were upset, some people said it was getting played up too much, but the undeniable truth is, it is a crime. If one decides to withhold judgement, it is their prerogative to do so, however the UFC does not have the same privilege. The UFC needed to make a decision, letting Jones resume training and allowing him to fight at UFC 187 would have been incredibly foolish, negligent, and above all greedy. Due process is owed to any citizen under U.S. law, employers don’t require the same rights.
The UFC has been scrutinized in the past for many different things, from botched drug testing to fighter pay, but everything requires a process. This is not to excuse or justify the UFC in any manner, many criticisms have been well deserved, and after the actions they decided to use against Jones, it is becoming evident Dana White and company are getting a grasp of what it means to be a mainstream sport. The more eyeballs the UFC draws, the harder the eyebrows will scowl. The UFC is finally starting to get it, but it seems Jon Jones still hasn’t.
Jon Jones did not grow up privileged, he was a relatively normal child with a typical American family upbringing, but you can’t blame a guy who may have some disillusions given his accomplishments. Jon Jones is a man who after two appearances in the Octagon was already being named a future champion, he’s the man who destroyed Shogun, one of the most feared and respected fighters in mixed martial arts history, with only six weeks of training and 3 years of overall MMA experience, and still holds the record for the most defenses in light heavyweight history and the youngest champion in UFC history.
It’s safe to say Jon Jones is different than the majority of people reading this right now, he is a world-class athlete and fighter, but his mental state is endlessly fascinating. How can a person with this clear deficit in decision making, be such an exceptional talent? It is not out of the realm of possibility that his poor decision making skills may overlap with his combative nature. What coach would ever advise to throw a flying knee in the first ten seconds of a title fight? What fighter throws spinning back elbows after he’s caught a kick? What junior college level wrestler gets the idea to clinch and takedown Olympic level wrestlers like Daniel Cormier? There is only one man with these attributes, Jon Jones.
Jones is a daring individual, the things he displays in the cage take a lot of skill, but also a lot of confidence, and some parts madness. It has been said that combat shows one’s true nature and true character, if this is accepted to be true, Jones actions should not be all too shocking. Jones fights like a madman, like Pablo Picasso met Edgar Allan Poe and decided to use their unique brand of art to conjure a fighting machine. Jones’ unique brand of artistic beatdowns are a clear product of his mentality, and his bravado allowed him to get away with things that he shouldn’t have, but fate can only be cheated for so long until it catches up.
The time came and on Tuesday he received a strong and appropriate punishment, but in addition to the UFC doing the more conscientious PR move by stripping and suspending Jones, they also did him a big favor. Jones is a young man with some time to still right the ship, the legal proceedings are a given, he will have his day in court, but this isn’t a problem that is solved with some time in jail or some fines. Jones has the world at his fingertips, he’s young, rich, famous, and can literally be labeled as the baddest man on the planet. One can forget that Jones is just a regular person like most of us, but that is why this unprecedented course of action is so significant. Jon Jones is now closer to being one of us, he has lost a prized possession, the tag of the elite, the UFC made a statement; no matter your ranking, star power or revenue making capabilities, there will be consequences for your actions even outside of the Octagon.
Jones maturity is a ripe target at this point in time. The man who notoriously posts inappropriate tweets only to delete them mere moments later, shows that his poor sense of judgment doesn’t only apply to his recreational use of illegal substances and questionable decisions behind the wheel of a car. This is no way, a diatribe about Jones growing up and getting his life together, it’s not a question of morals, it’s about common sense.
Jon Jones has a family, and anyone with a little common sense can see that these problems that he’s having are made exponentially harsher when you consider his loved ones. Great figures are not always great people, in fact history seldom has any examples of the two coexisting in one being, Jon Jones is no exception. In the grand scheme of things, the narrative surrounding this unfortunate incident will be of a highly privileged MMA champion being his own worst enemy, but let’s take a step back and disassociate spectacle with the real world.
The longer it takes for Jon Jones to come back into the cage the better, time away from the circus that is mixed martial arts should do much more good than bad in his personal life, and although some of his prime moments in his career may be cut short, the rearranging of his priorities can finally be set correctly. Moreover, the time away from the cage will undoubtedly make his aura glow even brighter. If all turns out well, Jon Jones will return sooner rather than later and can possibly headline a card at Madison Square Garden, and just imagine the atmosphere in the arena that night. Jones walking out first, waiting in the cage for the man who is holding the belt he never lost, in front of a hometown crowd. Will he shine through as he always has, or fold under the pressure? Only time will tell, and time is Jon Jones’ best friend right now.