Following Jon Jones’ UFC career has been nothing short of incredible, but his troubles outside the Octagon have played a big role in his revival and continued dominance.
Jones, 32, from Rochester, N.Y., is easily the most dominant force of the last decade in MMA. He’s won 13 straight UFC title fights. He’s beaten a slew of excellent competitors. Heck, he hasn’t even lost since way back in 2009 when he was disqualified in a fight he was dominating for using illegal 12-6 elbow strikes on Matt Hamill.
Critically speaking, Jones’ greatness as an MMA fighter is undeniable.
But there’s been plenty for the critics to nitpick about Jones’ life outside the cage. And maybe that’s something that should be looked at in a little different way headed into his UFC 247 bout against Dominick Reyes.
UFC 247 takes place February 8 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
Prior to a 2019 fight in against Thiago Santos, Jones opened up about his past and how it’s changed his outlook, as The Telegraph’s Gareth Davies detailed.
“…I think I’m a bad guy that’s trying to be good. Just because religiously, we’re all sinners. We’re born into sin. It’s our nature to sin. It’s a decision to try and do the right thing, even when no one is looking. I think all of us as humans, none of us are saints and it’s our choice to be more than that. I have to say I lean closer to being a perfect human that’s trying to do the right things and do good.”
Jones proceeded to speak about the night-and-day differences between early in his MMA career and his mindset currently.
“That 2011 Jon was a lot wilder and younger. Felt invincible. He wasn’t as appreciative. Today I know I’m very human and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I know you can lose it all, so I’ll do the right things. I’m trying to allow my character catch up to my talents.” Jones stated.
The 32-year-old star has been in and out of the headlines previously, but his past appears to have made a major impact on who he is today.
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A Concise as Possible History of Jones’ Past
Jones’ long and winding road is well-documented by ESPN.com’s Jeff Wagenheim, but the highlights of his most mischievous incidents outside the Octagon follow below.
In 2012, Jones was taken into custody in Binghamton, New York, after wrecking his car and refusing to allow the police to administer a sobriety test. Jones later pleaded guilty to DUI, was levied a $1,000 fine by the court and had his license suspended for six months.
Later that year, Jones declined a short-notice fight against Chael Sonnen after Sonnen’s original opponent Dan Henderson suffered a pre-fight injury. UFC 151 was subsequently canceled, and UFC president Dana White blamed Jones’ team for not encouraging him to take the fight.
In 2014, Jones and Daniel Cormier got into a scuffle in a hotel lobby in Las Vegas while doing promotional work for their upcoming fight at UFC 178. Jones and Cormier were subsequently kept away from each other after for the rest of the day, including when they are interviewed on SportsCenter. During that interview, Cormier said he wanted to spit in his opponent’s face to which Jones responded: “You know that I would absolutely kill you if you did something like that, right?”
In 2015, Jones tested positive for the main metabolite found in cocaine. It happened outside the 30-day in-competition testing window, so it didn’t cause UFC 182 to be canceled. However, Jones checked into a rehab facility for a total of one day, was fined $25,000 by the UFC and told Fox Sports in an interview afterward: “I’m not a cocaine addict by any means or even a frequent user. I just made a really dumb decision and got caught.”
Later that year, Jones was involved in a hit-and-run incident in Albuquerque, N.M., where Jones lives and trains. He fled the scene which included a pregnant woman from the other vehicle being injured. Jones turned himself in to police later that day. The UFC subsequently stripped Jones of his UFC light heavyweight championship and suspended the fighter. Ultimately, Jones pleaded guilty to the charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
In 2016, Jones violated probation and was cited by police in Albuquerque for five charges related to drag racing. Jones was ordered by the court to enroll in anger management and driver education courses.
Later that year, Jones was flagged by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for a potential doping violation. His fight against Cormier at UFC 200 was canceled. Jones was later issued a one-year ban by USADA for testing positive for some metabolites found in Tadalafil, an erectile dysfunction medication that Jones acknowledged he had used. Jones was stripped of his interim UFC title.
After Jones returned to the UFC in 2017 to defeat Cormier in the rescheduled rematch at UFC 214, USADA released that Jones had tested positive for the anabolic steroid Turinabol one day before the fight. The California State Athletic Commission overturned his knockout win to a no contest, and Jones was again suspended, this time for 15 months.
Jones returned to the UFC again in 2018 to face Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 in the rematch of what most considered Jones’ toughest win back in 2013. But USADA again found trace amounts of the anabolic steroid Jones had already been suspended for in 2016 and the Nevada Athletic Commission refused to license Jones for the fight.
Because USADA found the trace amounts to be reasonable and atypical residues from the prior offense, and because Jones agreed to more testing, UFC 232 was moved during fight week from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. That had never happened before and will likely never happen again.
So yeah, that’s a pretty rough stretch.
Jones Is Basically Undefeated, but He’s Seen a Ton of Adversity
Jones has been basically unbeatable in the UFC, but he’s still managed to see a ton of adversity throughout his nearly dozen-year MMA career. Keep in mind that those were only the highlights of Jones’ various troubles. There’s been other stuff, too.
But Jones has persevered through it all. In fact, after coming through what would seemingly destroy most other fighters’ careers, Jones is currently set to face undefeated light heavyweight contender Reyes at UFC 247 in Houston. Moreover, he’s somehow managed to vanquish just about all viable contenders in the 205-pound division.
So while Jones might have experienced some very difficult situations in his life, some of which were absolutely brought on by his own actions and decisions, and maybe some others that weren’t so cut and dry, Jones remains today the No. 1 MMA fighter in the world.
Not only that, but Jones seems on track to enjoy another stellar run with the company as the new decade unfolds. The 32-year-old was already tabbed the Fighter of the 2010s by various publications around the world including MMA Junkie, and it’s entirely possible he could be on his way to doing the same thing during the 2020s.
I’ve seen it suggested by some on social media and message boards that “nobody beats Jones but Jones.”
But maybe Jones can’t even do that. It’s definitely something worth pondering.
Keeping up With the Jones’s Has Never Been Easier
Here’s why all that’s important, and how it might make Jones more relatable to the everyday human being who ends up watching him fight for the rest of his career.
People from all walks of life tend to look up to the unattainable images the various PR professionals work hard to craft for their clients. They send out press release after press release to the media about how great things are going. They stage Instagram photoshoots. They work day and night to keep all those not-so-great stories that make up every single person’s life out of the news as much as humanly possible.
And none of it is real.
Then there’s Jones. He’s rich. He’s famous. He’s the best at what he does. Jones is a living legend. But how many of us relate to that? Not me.
Then consider this one other thing. Jones screws up all the time, too.
Is there anything more relatable than that? I’m not sure there is.
Most importantly, to those who might look up or down to him from whatever position in their own lives they find themselves living right now, he hasn’t let all those little, medium and big bad things in his past keep him from doing his thing.
Minimally, if that’s not something that should be noted alongside those other things about Jones, I’m not sure why. Jones is just a person. He’s really good at some stuff and really bad at other stuff, too.