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Is Jon Jones Making a Meniscus Out of a Mole Hill?

Jon Jones is tended to by a cut man after his fight against Alexander Gustafsson

Jon Jones (20-1) was set to defend his UFC Light Heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier (15-0) at UFC 178 on September 27th, but announced he would have to delay the bout due to a reportedly “torn meniscus” and a sprained ankle.  The meniscus consists of two somewhat obscure C-shaped pieces of tough, rubbery cartilage that rest between the shinbone and thighbone.  It’s purpose (like most cartilage in the body) is to act as a shock absorber.  Unbeknownst to many, the injury is more common among professional athletes in contact sports.

Photo via mayoclinic.com
Photo via mayoclinic.com

The symptoms of a torn meniscus can range from:

  • A popping sensation
  • Swelling or stiffness
  • Pain, especially when twisting or rotating the knee
  • Difficulty straightening the knee
  • Experiencing the sensation of a block to moving the knee, as if the knee were locked in place

However, while it may seem like a rather serious condition, depending on the severity of the tear it may or may not be immediately symptomatic.  In fact, it is often possible to engage in home remedy to care for and rehabilitate the injured knee.

But when your career is that of an elite athlete it may be more prudent to opt for a surgical approach to treatment rather than a lengthy and sometimes unpredictable attempt at home remedy.

The surgery, known as a knee arthroscopy, enables an orthopedic surgeon to both assess the tear within the meniscus and also repair it. A key medical goal during surgery is to preserve as much of the original cartilage as possible. Though actual procedures can range from meniscus repair (sewing the torn edges together) to meniscectomy (trimming away the torn area and smoothing the injury site). Microfracture surgery is also another surgical option that can stimulate new cartilage growth.


According to the Mayo Clinic, a torn meniscus is actually one of the most common knee injuries and almost any activity that causes forceful twisting or rotation of the knee can lead to a tear.  This is especially true when putting the pressure of the entire body’s weight on it.

The frequency of a meniscal tear makes it rather unsurprising that any athlete (especially those of greater weight classes) in MMA should sustain one at some point in their career.  Yet the post operative recovery time for an elite athlete is far, far less than that of an average person.


Reference material on Medicinenet.com states, “Elite athletes return to practice within one to two weeks after surgery, but they are a motivated group of people who spend hours each day in rehabilitation. For most other patients, return to mild routine activity occurs in less than six weeks.”

If all this is true then why is Jones delaying the fight?  With almost 6 weeks of time until UFC 178 he had a good chance of coming out of rehab well in time for his prescheduled bout with Cormier on the 27th of September.  Is the UFC being conservative, ensuring fans don’t pay to see a fight that just might not happen?  If that’s the case then it seems prudent, on the other hand, injuries happen all the time and if anything showing the will to fight through a quick rehabilitation to face his opponent in the cage would only strengthen Jones’ image even if he would inevitably need to bow out due to complications during rehab.

Even so, the chances of an injury during the fight is equally likely and should that have happened would Jones immediately call for medical relief?  Those of you who watched UFC 159 will remember a Jon Jones who was willing to sustain a gruesome toe fracture to defend a takedown attempt by Chael Sonnen.

In the fight business there is injury and pain.  And with higher payouts there are higher expectations.  Jones being one of the highest paid MMA fighters in the UFC it’s entirely reasonable for fans to expect more from him than they would from others. Of course we have not examined his knee or ankle injuries so we cannot say how severe the damage is.

However, it would be prudent for his PR team to ensure the fans know he is fully committed.  Especially after it was reported by Ariel Helwani back in June on UFC Tonight that Cormier said he’s willing to put off a planned knee surgery if it means competing for a championship.

Photo credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Photo credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

Cormier has since stated he is disappointed that Jones isn’t willing to fight through his injury as he was willing to do with his own but is also relieved that he will have more time to fully recover.

What are your thoughts?  Is Jones properly motivated or is he playing it a little too safe?