We all know what’s happened by now. Jon Jones used his last “get out of jail free” card with his most recent arrest for a hit and run accident involving a pregnant mother among other drivers with damaged property and light injuries from the incident.
Out now on $2,500 dollars bond, Jones might have thought it would be business as usual. The UFC would have his back while he and his attorney’s sort out the mess. However, this time the UFC would not sit idly by and give him a chance to “rehabilitate” himself. Instead they chose to strip him of his Light Heavyweight Title and ban him from competition.
Since his victory against Shogun Rua at UFC 128 in May of 2011 he was catapulted into stardom that would see the Light Heavyweight UFC World Championship title rest in his hands for 12 consecutive fights. By no means is this a small accomplishment for any fighter. However, those of you who haven’t been following Jones throughout his career might not know that just hours before his fight at UFC 128 he and his team mates subdued a car thief. Witnessing the crime in progress while mentally preparing for the fight, Jones and company shouted out to the would be robber and then chased him down, submitting him and called the police to have him arrested.
While some might consider his actions brave and commendable others might see them as hot headed and brash, but these actions do not line up with the image of an individual who’s just a bad seed. This may just be a glimpse into a side of Jones that few have since witnessed and fewer have discussed recently. Regardless to say, this and his victory put him in very good graces with the UFC, fans and Dana White himself. But what happened to his relationship with UFC management since that competitive and social victory? Was it always rosy or were there just enough rough patches for White and Fertitta to just be waiting for the right opportunity to eliminate one of their most significant yet troubled cash cows?
Keep in mind, there is no assumption or even suggestion of conspiracy or perhaps even immediate intent, but perhaps there was hope that he would lose just one fight. Hope that he might make room for change in the UFC, unless of course he proved to be a social and public relations juggernaut like Ronda Rousey has been for the UFC. Everything Dana White has ever said publicly about Ms. Rousey has been glowing, with no excuse for attitude, excessive praise or even the possibility that she might be just a bit too much of a star to leave any oxygen in the room for anyone else.
The same, however, cannot be said for Jon Jones when it comes to Dana White’s public comments. Little less than midway through 2012, Jon Jones was arrested on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) after running his Bentley into a utility pole just a few hours past midnight Saturday May 19th. While White had met with Jones a few days later, Ariel Helwani was first to get a statement on the matter from White himself. Still supportive of his young new talent White had this to say:
“I don’t know all the facts as far as legally what is going on with him. I talked to Jon and, Jon is a good guy. He’s a good kid. That’s what everybody has to remember. When everyone is putting this pressure on this kid — is he the pound-for-pound best in the world … no, not yet. There is so much more that I think, in my opinion, that goes along with being the pound-for-pound best on the world. Anderson Silva has proved it a zillion times over…. No matter how much money he makes, he’s always the same…. Anderson is a professional, he’s a martial artist, he’s beat everybody who has been thrown at him, he’s been a champion almost the entire time he’s been with the UFC. We’re going to find out now what happens with Jon Jones. Obviously, the legal side of it, I have no idea what is going on with that. Him and his people are handling that. I think that in the conversations that I’ve had with him, this is going to end up being a positive thing for him. If he handles this thing the right way, I think he will [learn his lesson].”
While Jones indeed did workout an arrangement with prosecution to avoid long term incarceration all seemed well for the fighter until a second conflict just a mere two months later proved to be one of the most notable disagreements between Jones and White until his ultimate ousting from the UFC ranks. During a press conference for the then planned then cancelled UFC 151 White shared his feelings with the press on Jones’ refusal to accept a fight with Chael Sonnen in lieu of his intended bout against Dan Henderson. Henderson sustained a training injury that required him to recuse himself from the fight. Where-as Jones was in apparently excellent condition, but refused to accept the offer to fight Sonnen instead when Greg Jackson (Jone’s trainer at the time) advised he pass on the offer and wait until he has more than a few days notice to prepare for the change.
This response did not sit well with the UFC president. As he had stacked the UFC 151 card very heavily against the Main Event and to see that be discarded by Jones sent him into a rage that he is classically known for. During a conference call with the media Dana White mmafighting.com reported he had this to say about the situation:
“Jon Jones is a guy a lot of fans don’t like, and I don’t think this is going to make him any more popular. Lorenzo Fertitta and I are disgusted with Jon Jones and Greg Jackson.”
“I don’t know why a guy who is a world champion and considered by many the pound for pound best wouldn’t fight anybody. It’s baffling to me. I’ve never seen it by anyone else.”
“I’ll go on the record saying [Jackson] is a f–king sport-killer. This guy is from another planet. I’ve never even seen anything like it in my life.”
(When asked how this changes his relationship with Jones) “A lot.”
“This is one of the most selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn’t just affect you. This is affecting 16 other lives, their families, kids are going back to school. The list goes on and on of all the things, the money that was spent for fighters to train and the list goes on and on. Like I said, I don’t think this is going to make Jon Jones popular with the fans, sponsors, cable distributors, television network executives or other fighters.”
“Sure, Jon Jones is rich what does he care if he cancels the fight? But 20 other fighters on the card added up to almost a half a million dollars in purse money that Jones and Greg Jackson’s decision stole from them. No champion or headliner in UFC history has ever done that.”
“Let me tell you what. I always laugh when I hear a fighter say, ‘I’m a businessman.’ No you’re not. You’re a fighter. You see moves like this and other things where if they were real businessmen, we wouldn’t be having this conference call right now.”
“UFC 151 will be remembered as the event Jon Jones and Greg Jackson murdered.”
Mr. White has been known for his volatile attitude and even more so for his unrelenting persistence when it comes to holding a grudge.
To add insult to injury, when Jon Jones responded to the comments stating to the press that he felt like “a piece of meat”. White again responded with more provocative statements, as reported by mmamania.com:
Speaking on the Jim Rome show, White exclaimed, “I wonder how the piece of meat was feeling when we bought him the Bentley.”
Then later on he continued with:
“The PR department hates me,” he said. “They’re always pissed at me. I’m always saying stuff before [I should].
That’s a little diva there — being treated like a piece of meat?” White continued shortly thereafter. “I think [Jones] was being a diva. It is what it is.”
“We’re pretty honest and open,” he said. “I’m lucky I can do it my way. I can do things the way I want and still have relationships with FOX, Bud Light and all the other people we deal with.”
But as the UFC’s cake has grown larger, having it and eating it have become two different and more challenging things than they once were.
Jones later went on to fight and defeat Vitor Belfort for his last bout of 2012 and in 2013 galvanized fans after a somewhat questionable unanimous decision victory against Alexander Gustaffsson for his last bout of the year, the prior being won with a TKO against Chael Sonnen. All seemed well until we entered 2014 where he suffered a torn meniscus some months after his unanimous decision victory against Glover Teixeira in April of that year. He had been slated to fight Daniel Cormier that summer but the meniscus injury required the fight be moved to January of 2015. Aside from an over the top altercation between Jones an Cormier during the media day event in Las Vegas (promoting UFC 178) Jones had remained rather low key the rest of the year.
Then at UFC 182 when he finally faced off against Cormier, an unflattering admission was made by the NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) regarding a random drug test performed just weeks before the fight where he had tested positive for cocaine metabolites. In response to this Jones checked into rehab for all of 24 hours, then claiming he was cured of any drug problems he might have had.
During the course of his retention of the Light Heavyweight Title Jon Jones had developed an entirely polarized image with the mma community and his own fan base. On the one hand he had been successful at defending his title a significant number of times consecutively and on the other his self destructive behavior had become a topic of discussion among many fans and even some pundits. Then ranked the pound for pound best fighter in the world with a salary exceeding that of his two brothers in the NFL. (A figure that frankly was unheard of in MMA history.) The potential abuse of cocaine was a tipping point for many fans, but the UFC remained publicly supportive.
Irrespective of the UFC’s public support for their Champion, Jones had begun to go on the offensive by sending a threat of legal action through his attorney to the Nevada State Athletic Commission for unnecessarily releasing out of competition drug test results to the media and the public. Perceived as a violation of his privacy, a cursory examination of the allegations appeared to show some potential for a legal precedent supporting his claims.
Fast forward just a few months later to April 2015, having defended his title yet again from Cormier at UFC 182, he made his final personal (yet public) mistake just one week prior to this articles publication. One that would cost him his title and potentially his entire career.
While the official position of the UFC is that the move to strip his title was purely for the sake of his well being, to ensure he can focus on his pending legal matters and that they continue to remain supportive of him, the question still remains. Why, indeed, were out of competition drug test results made public? And why was the admission of the knowledge of these results since December made only a few days after his victory at UFC 182? There was no disciplinary action that could prevent him from fighting, but the UFC did fine him a small amount for violating the “code of conduct” rules from their fighter contracts.
It’s unlikely anyone could predict when Jone would screw up again, and in what way. But it seems that while the UFC may support him publicly, privately there might have been another agenda entirely. Regardless of that potentiality, the net result is a positive for the sport and for fans. We need more role models at the top, and despite what some may consider a long overdue action on the part of the UFC, praise should be given for taking action when they could have easily deferred by giving him “time off” and insist that they will await the outcome of the trial until making a decision. Him retaining his title until that time and then should a conviction occur the necessary action of stripping the title could be done.
All this said, Dana White could be considered somewhat prophetic during his post event interview with Ariel Helwani at the conclusion of UFC 128. The same night that put former champion, Jon Jones, into the limelight. Check out the video below: