Jon Jones, what could have been.
In March of 2011, a knee to the head dropped former UFC light heavyweight kingpin Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to his knees. Jon Jones had done it. The 23-year old Rochester, New York product had become the youngest champion in UFC history. Fast forward to January of 2015, Jones successfully made his eighth consecutive defense of that same title, as he dispatched then-rival Daniel Cormier. His legend continued to grow.
Three days removed from the fight, Jones tested positive for benzoylecgonine, the primary metabolite of cocaine. He was fined $25,000 for violating the promotion’s code of conduct policy. Three months later, Jones was involved in a hit-and-run incident in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jones fled the scene of a collision involving a rental car registered under his name, leaving behind an injured pregnant victim. He did return; however, it was only once to retrieve cash from the car. The UFC stripped Jones of his championship and he was sentenced to up to 18 months of probation.
On July 8th, 2016, a urine sample collected by the US Anti-Doping Agency revealed Jones had tested positive for two banned substances. Claiming innocence, Jones was awarded a 1-year suspension from competition following a hearing.
Still, his legend continued to grow.
With each misstep, the most dangerous man in the history of mixed martial arts became a bigger star, a more valuable commodity. His inevitable return would deliver a new Jon Jones, with an even brighter future. The man they call “Bones” simply could not be stopped.
That return came mere weeks ago, at UFC 214, under the bright lights of the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. His opponent? Aforementioned bitter rival Daniel “DC” Cormier, the man most outspoken against the now 30-year old. This was Jones’ moment, the chance to reintroduce himself to the world, to deliver on his promises of change, and to erase any doubt of foul play Cormier had spoken of. This was Jones’ last chance.
At three minutes and one second of the third round in a grueling back and forth affair, Jones delivered. A head kick signaled the beginning of the end for Cormier, staggering the California native. A series of follow-up blows cemented the inevitable. Jon Jones was once again on top of the world, with championship gold around his waist.
Or so we thought.
Last night, Tuesday, August 22nd, the United States Anti-Doping Agency informed the Jackson-Winkeljohn product that he had tested positive for turinabol, an anabolic steroid, stemming from an in-competition sample collected prior to his second defeat of Cormier.
A statement from Jones’ team stated he was “crushed” by the news, revealing they had “worked tirelessly and meticulously to avoid this situation.” But, is anyone buying it? Is anyone so naive as to again believe in Jones’ innocence?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
The question now is can we, in good conscience, continue to give this man second chances? Can we continue to point in his direction as the greatest of all time?
The short answer is no.
If not the best, where does Jones fit? A remarkable talent, no doubt, perhaps the most naturally gifted athlete the sport has ever seen. But it is there we must draw the line. No higher acclaim can be awarded to a man twice found guilty of cheating.
It’s important we paint Jones for what he really is: a reckless individual, a potential danger to society, and a man who has made a mockery of a sport we love. This is Jon Jones, and it’s time we accept him at face value. The rehearsed tears and promises of change will no doubt rear their head again. We cannot listen. Color him the greatest who never really lived, if you must. The distinction is trivial. We can ill afford to continue to try to help a man who refuses to help himself. The charade is over. The GOAT no more.
And for Daniel Cormier? He doesn’t need to beat Jon Jones, for Jon Jones has once again beaten himself.