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UFC 159: Jones v Sonnen

Some Thoughts on Jon Jones

Back when Anderson Silva tarnished his legacy by getting caught with performance enhancing drugs in his system I felt a complicated mix of emotions. I was a huge Silva fan and had no problem calling him the Greatest of All Time. I reacted to the news of his failed drug test with feelings of disbelief, sadness, anger, betrayal, and disappointment. I attempted to rationalise Silva’s actions, creating a narrative that I could understand and maybe just maybe forgive (though his continued insistence he didn’t take anything illegal has crapped on that).

Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones is still in the process of cementing his legacy, but his career strongly suggests that he is next in line for the G.O.A.T crown… or at least he was.

Jones was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run on Sunday. Eye witnesses report on seeing Jones run a red light that resulted in an accident with another car. The driver, a pregnant woman, suffered at least a broken arm. Jones apparently fled the scene, only to return to grab a wad of cash he had left in the car and then once again run. Police found a marijuana pipe in the car, along with marijuana and documents that link Jones to the rental car.

This was not Jon’s first run in with the law. He has been in a number of car accidents, at least one of which occurred whilst under the influence of alcohol. He also popped for cocaine in the drug test after his last fight, resulting in him checking himself into rehab… for one day.

The critical backlash by fans and media after this latest incident has essentially tied the UFC’s hands and they have stripped Jones of his title and have suspended him indefinitely.

My thoughts on this are nowhere near as complex as they were regarding Anderson Silva. For Jones I only have the one thought, and that thought is simply “You f%&*ing moron”.

As a fighter what Jon Jones was building towards in his career was something for the history books. He already has the greatest record the sport has ever seen. And I don’t mean a huge number of wins and no losses, what I’m talking about are the quality of his wins. All great fighters have one or two notable wins on their records, but the majority of those wins come over fighters who are good but not great. They are rungs in the ladder to the top and nothing more. Jones has fought a few of these guys as well, but he got to the top of the ladder pretty quickly, and then kept on climbing over greats, legends, world beaters, champions, and a hall of famer. No other fighter has wins over so many truly great fighters, and no other fighter made beating them look so easy.

And he wasn’t close to done. He was scheduled to defend his title a ninth time in May against Anthony Rumble Johnson. If he was to win that fight and then defend it once more he would have tied Silva for the most ever title defences. One more fight after that and the record was his. After that, who knows. Jones frequently talked about moving up to Heavyweight. Maybe he would’ve made a run for a second title and held two belts consecutively. Impossible to say. But that’s what makes Jones so frustrating. He was so good that anything seemed possible. And he still is.

Silva’s PED use called into question his entire career. Jones being an asshole doesn’t. He is still a phenomenal athlete. Still a world class fighter. But who he is as a person means we can’t, and shouldn’t, let him be. To let him fight, to let him cement his legacy, would be letting him off the hook, in fact, it would be rewarding him for his behavior.

At the very least he’s got to atone.

Luckily for Jones, sports figures don’t usually have to do that for very long. Just ask Floyd Mayweather, who is about to make a record pay day fighting this weekend, despite being arrested and serving jail time for assaulting numerous women. But the way we treat sports stars is a subject for another, much longer article, by a much better writer than myself.

Jon may have cost himself the chance to be seen as the greatest ever. He’s lost his title, his sponsors, and for the time being at least, his job. But there may be a silver lining or two to all of this, for us if not him.

The first is that the light heavyweight division is now up for grabs. There has always been such a gulf between Jon and his opponents that any title fight seemed like a forgone conclusion, but now it is wide open. Daniel Cormier and Rumble fight for the vacant title at UFC 187 and that is a fight where either man could stand up and make their mark. Gustaffason will be looking for redemption after a recent loss, and Rashad Evans will soon be returning from injury. The weight class no longer feels like one man’s playground, and is all the more interesting for it.

The other positive is Jon can take this time away and get the help he clearly needs. If he can sort his life out then maybe his shot at greatness is not completely out of reach. If Jones could do all what he’s done when he is this much of a mess, just imagine what he could do clean and focused.

All he’s got to do is get out of his own way.

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