Over the last few years, Jon Jones has made more headlines for incidents that took place outside of the cage as opposed to his success inside of it, and it’s safe to say that his career has turned into a wild roller coaster ride.
When it comes to in-cage accomplishments, few fighters in the history of the sport are able to match Jones’ success.
From becoming the youngest champion in UFC history to defending his 205-pound title eight straight times between 2011-15, Jones had beaten a who’s who of former champions and established himself as a rare talent in the process.
Then, however, the problems outside of the cage began to arise and for a time, it appeared as if they would never end.
A Troubled Past
While the 31-year-old Jones, who owns a 24-1 (1 no-contest) professional record, has remained nearly perfect inside of the cage, he’s had quite a bit of trouble doing so outside of it. And these issues have certainly hurt his career.
Taking a look back, Jones first ran into trouble with the law in 2012. After crashing his Bentley into a pole, “Bones” was arrested and charged with a DUI. Despite the relative severity of the incident, it didn’t have much of an impact on his fighting career.
Moving forward, Jones once again made headlines for the wrong reasons in 2015. After scoring a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 182, it was revealed that Jones had tested positive for cocaine metabolites.
Given that cocaine isn’t banned as an out-of-competition substance, Jones was not suspended. However, he was fined $25,000 by the UFC. More importantly, his reputation took its first hit. And following this incident, Jones’ life and career seemed to take a dramatic turn for the worst.
Later that year, Jones was pulled from a scheduled fight with Anthony Johnson and stripped of his title after he was once again arrested due to his involvement in a hit-and-run accident. Essentially, Jones had run a red light and crashed into a car being driven by a pregnant woman. He then fled the scene on foot before later turning himself in to authorities.
Ultimately avoiding jail time, Jones was sentenced to 18 months of probation and an abundance of community service hours.
He then returned to the cage at UFC 197 in April 2016, where he defeated Ovince Saint Preux to become the interim 205-pound champion.
Unfortunately, his issues outside of the cage were far from over. What came next would have the harshest impact on his legacy.
More Drug Test Failures
With his career seemingly back under control, Jones was finally set to rematch Cormier at UFC 200 in July 2016. Just days prior to the event, however, shock waves were sent through the MMA community.
It was announced that Jones had been flagged by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) and pulled from the fight after testing positive for two banned substances. Following the news, Jones claimed that he was innocent and blamed the failed test on a contaminated supplement.
In the end, it was deemed that the failed test did indeed stem from a contaminated supplement. Because of this, he was handed a one-year suspension. This conclusion, however, didn’t exactly convince the MMA community to take it any easier on him.
Returning to action at UFC 214 in July 2017, Jones scored a knockout victory over Cormier to reclaim his title. Finally, all seemed to be right in the world for “Bones.”
In the aftermath of the fight, however, yet another setback arose. Once again, Jones was flagged by USADA for a potential anti-doping violation. He was subsequently stripped of his title.
This time, Jones tested positive for Oral Turinabol. Given that the substance is classified as an anabolic steroid, Jones was blasted by the masses, often being labeled as a cheat.
Facing a four-year suspension, Jones again claimed that he was innocent. And after going through arbitration for a second time, he was only given a 15-month suspension after it was deemed that the positive test stemmed from another contaminated supplement.
On both occasions, USADA confirmed that Jones did not knowingly take any banned substances. Ultimately, the third party testing organization said that “Bones” was not a cheat nor a fraud.
That didn’t change his public perception, though.
It seemed as if fans had forgotten what Jones had done inside of the cage or what he was capable of doing. Or even worse for him, fans had begun to attribute his success to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
At some points, it was unclear if Jones would ever fight again. And if he didn’t, he would leave the sport with a tarnished and broken legacy.
In 2019, however, that isn’t the case. In fact, one could argue that Jones is slowly re-writing his legacy.
Present Times and a Return to Greatness
Upon the conclusion of his second suspension, Jones was booked in a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 232 this past December.
In typical Jones fashion, there had to be a bit of controversy. Due to inconsistencies found in his drug tests prior to the bout, he was unable to receive a license to fight in Las Vegas.
However, it was deemed by experts that the minute amounts of Oral Turinabol still in his system were not due to re-ingestion and did not offer him any performance-enhancing benefits.
Because of that, the event was moved to California and the show went on. And when the cage door closed, Jones was once again dominant. He earned a ground and pound TKO over Gustafsson in the third round and reclaimed the 205-pound title.
Following the fight, Jones expressed his interest in remaining active. He said that he hoped to fight four times in the coming calendar year. And thus far, Jones has held true on those promises.
At UFC 235 last month, “Bones” returned to the cage and defended his title in dominant fashion against Anthony Smith. And just last week, it was reported that he’ll take on Thiago Santos at UFC 239 in July. That fight will mark his third in seven months.
Looking Ahead to the Future
At one point in time, Jones was considered by many to be the greatest fighter in the history of the sport. After all of his legal issues and the multiple drug test fiascoes, some no longer see him in that light. On the other hand, some still do.
Regardless, it now seems as if Jones, who remains in the prime of his career, has a chance to re-write his legacy. For fans of his, it’s been a breath of fresh air to once again see him active. After all, before this year, he hadn’t competed more than once in a year since 2013.
And not only is he now competing incredibly often, but he’s successfully doing so against the best the light heavyweight division has to offer. If that continues and he remains clean, it’d be difficult to deny his greatness. Add in a potential move to heavyweight and it’s easy to see how Jones could still reach incredible heights in MMA.
And to play both sides, it’s also true that what Jones has done in the past can never be changed. Some will never forgive him for his actions. Some will never believe that he was innocent in relation to the failed drug tests.
But in sports and in life, it’s about how one bounces back from poor decisions and from adversity. And what Jones is doing now suggests that he may finally be on the straight and narrow. And if he is, the best may have yet to come for the 205-pound king.
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