It is safe to say that I saw this coming a while back.
Admittedly, this journalist began to see what would become the exposition of the Ultimate Fighting Championships Light Heavyweight Champion a few years ago.
I was an event coordination contractor for Zuffa, LLC (parent company of the UFC) and coordinated the athletes for fight week for the promotional brands that they owned at the time (UFC, Strikeforce & the World Extreme Cagefighting).
I dealt with Jones in rented transportation vans, in the bowels of arenas and at promotional events.
I saw a good kid from a good family. Two brothers in the National Football League and parents who were church leaders in his native Endicott, NY. Growing up in New York City I had never heard of Endicott but figured that’s why he was a phenomenon; he was incubated in relative obscurity.
But I immediately noticed the tinge of immaturity in his conversations away from the media pulpit. I saw the coddling by his managerial handlers and his lack of understanding of the new responsibilities to the sport he would shoulder as his stock rose. I saw his disconnection to the combat sports elders when he spoke out against James Toney’s MMA ambitions en route to losing to Randy Couture.
I chided him once in confidence that this was a moment he should have used to get close to a legend in boxing (Toney), bridging the competition gap between the two sports that the media has created. My words fell on deaf ears as we approached the front of the host hotel and Jones launched from the van into the swarming throng of fans and media entities.
I stopped coordinating for the UFC as my career moved towards total independence but still I watched Jones as I do all the black athletes in MMA, both as a brother in arms and as a fan concerned with media portrayals of people of color. Unfortunately, my fears regarding the young star began to be confirmed and those of us who were original subscribers to his brand suffered greatly. His career was a manifestation of the yin yang concept, with the dark side emerging as the dominant half of the whole.
In October 2011, Jones was cited in Albuquerque, New Mexico (his training home) for driving with a suspended license.
A year later, in 2012, “Bones” was arrested on the suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in the early hours of May 19th. The fact that he wrapped his $190,000 Bentley around a utility pole was shocking and it began to expose a bit of recklessness in the UFC Champion’s lifestyle.
Last September at a promotional event for his UFC 182 bout against Daniel Cormier, the two faced off and Jones struck Cormier, resulting in a brawl that, although sparking renewed interest in the bout, cost the champion $50,000 and cemented his role as the unofficial heel in that fight. Jones bested Cormier via unanimous decision.
Then came the whopper of all news. During a random pre-fight drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in December 2014, Jones tested positive for cocaine metabolites. His bout with Cormier still went on the following month on January 3rd 2015 and the news wasn’t released until after the bout was finished and Jones retained his title.
Jones spent 24 hours in rehab where he went into various counseling sessions before it was clinically advised that he receive outpatient care at his home and regular random drug testing weekly. Jones spent one day there and left to see his younger brother Chandler Jones, an NFL Defensive End, win a Super Bowl ring with Patriots.
Then this week, the saga of this champion came to a strange yet almost expected climax, when he was involved in a hit and run accident in Albuquerque, NM, where he was training for his UFC 187 bout against Anthony Johnson. Reports of a pregnant woman suffering a broken arm in the three car crash made our hearts sink; then the second part of the story was released. Jones reportedly was seen running from the scene only to return for a cache of money, some of which he tossed to the pregnant woman before fleeing the scene again. According to the report, a pipe and marijuana were found in the rented Buick.
The charges were upped from a misdemeanor to a full felony and a warrant was issued for his arrest by the Albuquerque PD. Bodily harm had been inflicted, and if it can be proven that Jones “knowingly” failed to stay at the scene, he could face up to 3 years imprisonment.
Jon Jones, like all of us, is human; yet he fails to understand what that entails. He marketed himself on the platform of righteousness via his religious upbringing, formerly squeaky-clean image and near athletic perfection in the UFC, but he fails to demonstrate those qualities in his actions.
What Jones has failed to realize, some of which can be attributed to his short 27 years on Earth and the lack of proper psychological handling as his career grew, is that you can trade your life story for larger fame and not represent that story fully. You can’t be angry for fans questioning your tattoo of scripture Philippians 4:13 which reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
More importantly, Jones represents a failure of his team, and the UFC Code of Conduct enforcement that should have monitored him and his personal activities with a closer eye. Yesterday the UFC decided to strip Jones of his UFC Light Heavyweight title and suspend him indefinitely until he faces the New Mexico courts for his latest infraction. Per the UFC:
"UFC announced that it has suspended Jon Jones indefinitely and stripped him of the light heavyweight title as a result of violations of the organization’s Athlete Code of Conduct Policy. Jones was recently arrested in Albuquerque, N.M. on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury. As a result of the charge and other violations of the Athlete Code of Conduct Policy, the organization believes it is best to allow Jones time to focus on his pending legal matters.
UFC feels strongly that its athletes must uphold certain standards both in and out of the Octagon. While there is disappointment in the recent charges, the organization remains supportive of Jones as he works through the legal process.
With this decision, UFC has determined that No. 1 contender Anthony Johnson will now fight No. 3 contender Daniel Cormier for the UFC light heavyweight championship at UFC 187 on May 23 in Las Vegas."
Today Reebok announced that they had terminated his contract, effective immediately, and Jones now becomes the first athlete to lose two shoe and apparel deals in 8 months (Nike and now Reebok).
In this journalist’s opinion it was the right thing to do to restore morale already broken from the cocaine revelation post his defeat of Cormier. Jones forgot that becoming a champion is not a selfish goal but an achievement fit only for an athlete with statesmanship and the ability to understand that his power is given by the people who watched him rise to glory. And as we learned from Peter Parker's Uncle Ben, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Jon Jones owes everyone who believed that he played the game clean and fair. He owes the people of color who view his talent and success, achieved in a sport with a small number of top fighters of color, as a means of inspiration for their own journey along a road paved with obstacles and hardship.
Instead what we have been sold was a paper champion who never fully embraced the responsibility of his success and we can only applaud the UFC for finally taking action and giving Daniel Cormier, a better representative of the sport and the league, the chance to fight for the title now at UFC 187.
Only time will tell if Jones will rebound. Until then he needs to heed the lessons from his family and remain in MMA purgatory with only a mirror and himself.