Jon Jones, former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, was formally reinstated by the UFC on October 23rd 2015. It was the only good news coming from the camp that has been dumped on recently.
Loss of two blue chip endorsement deals, loss of his title and ultimately the loss of respect from fans who, in this era of social media machinations, unmercifully pelted him with memes and viral videos parodying his Nevada State Athletic Commission discovered cocaine usage.
However, now that he's back, can he deal with the newly tough UFC brass and no tolerance climate?
Let’s take a look back at when the UFC was a bit meeker in its reproach of distasteful actions by its athletes and when the kid gloves first began to start slipping off.
Flash back to 2012. Jones had been in the UFC for four years and was becoming a bonafide MMA star after defeating Mauricio “Shogun" Rua for the Light Heavyweight belt in 2011.
His image was squeaky clean and stamped with unblemished Christianity co-signed by the tattoo he bears on his right chest and shoulder, Philippians 4:13- ‘I can do all this through Him that gives me strength.’
However, after besting Rashad Evans for his third successful title defense, Jones caused a media uproar when he crashed his 2012 Continental GT Bentley around a pole in Binghamton, New York at 5:02am on May 20th 2012. He was subsequently charged with a DWI and released to his family.
Perhaps because of the vehicle model or the increased fame of the star at the time of the crash, this story received major play on the web. But digging deeper Jones had a car crash just a year earlier that resulted in a woman being carried out on a stretcher. Although the details of Jones' condition during this crash are not available it just sets the primer for the events that played out in later years.
This is not a Jon Jones bashing session, but the UFC’s athletes have had a pattern of misconduct from the biggest to the smallest promoted with no real repercussion from the brass until public perception forced their hand.
Back in 2012 two other incidents happened with UFC branded talent. Former Ultimate Fighter winner Ross Pearson was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and even main Octagon girl and Playmate Arianny Celeste faced domestic violence charges stemming from an incident with her boyfriend.
But once Matt Mitrione made disparaging comments towards transgender fighter Fallon Fox on “The MMA Hour” show on MMAFighting.com, describing Fox as a “sick, sociopathic disgusting freak” who should be “embarrassed” for wanting to beat up women, the UFC was forced to act.
The UFC issued a statement a few hours after the incident on April 8th 2013 issuing him a suspension and revealing that “the organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and - as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct.”
The UFC then issued its code of conduct to the media so that their position with its fighters regarding conduct was clear to all.
According to Yahoo Sports, the UFC was aided in the development of their code of conduct, which was based upon similar codes used in the NFL, MLB and the NHL, by the powerful Washington, D.C. law firm Covington & Burling.
UFC COO Lawrence Epstein told Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, “We’re not a bunch of police officers and we’re not sitting around all day trying to figure out ways to catch guys. We’re trying to run a business and these things can get in the way of that. And look, there are two sides to that. We want to do what is right for the company, but if there is an opportunity to educate, to help (Mitrone) move on from this in a way that makes sense, we want to do that."
Previous to this the UFC picked and chose their battles with fighter conduct as exhibited by Rashad Evans referencing Penn State wrestling alumnus Phil Davis and the child sex abuse scandal in the build up to their 2012 fight. Nothing happened at all when he compared his beating of Davis to be “worse than Sandusky did to them kids.”
It also exposes the reversal to the previous talk of Dana White who famously never holds his tongue even in light of diplomacy. White usually is the messenger but the recent placement of former Chief Legal Officer turned COO, Lawrence Epstein, and Lorenzo Fertitta stepping down at his lucrative Station Casino’s to be the UFC Chairman and CEO full-time, said that things are definitely changing and more scrutiny is being applied from within.
UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta, however, deserves credit for taking an early stand against banned code of conduct items such as performance enhancing drug usage ban and testing.
“I’d write the check today,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports. “And not just testing for PEDs, but I’d do it for anything that improves the health, safety and well-being of our fighters.”
This is all timely since HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel recently exposed that the amount of domestic violence arrests involving MMA fighters is more than double the average national rate. A study conducted by the show, through public records, found that per 100,000 U.S. men, there was a domestic violence arrest rate of 360.
In the long run these are attempts at steering a still new sport incubating sudden stars. MMA once looked to make a profit and get on the radars of popular sports fans. Now that that’s been accomplished the new goal is to turn a rulebook into a professional fighter standard.
Right now it is best perceived a guideline that hopes to mature into a professional standard to be abided by Jon Jones and the future crop of MMA stars.