UFC

Jon Jones Has to Do This to Win the Respect of UFC Rivals

Call it professional jealousy if you will, but plenty of people in and around the UFC hold a low opinion of Jon Jones. The light heavyweight champion has a spotty behavioral record in the octagon and outside it, making it difficult for the world’s dominant mixed martial arts organization to fully embrace one of the greatest competitors in the sport’s history.

Jon Jones has to clean up his behavior outside the octagon

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Jon Jones’ interactions with the law enforcement community over the years have been numerous, as have his run-ins with anti-doping rules. The result has been that Jones has been stripped of his UFC light heavyweight title that he first earned in March 2011 an embarrassing number of times.

He’d made eight successful title defenses before being stripped of his belt in April 2015 for violating the UFC’s code of conduct policy, which stemmed from a hit-and-run accident. He regained the title in April 2016 by beating Daniel Cormier, only to have the belt taken again for testing positive for clomiphene and letrozole when the pre-fight testing came back.

Jones beat Cormier again in July 2017 to regain the UFC crown only to have it taken away for testing positive for turinabol. Jones won the championship for the fourth time by beating Alexander Gustafsson in December 2018 and has held it since.

The hit-and-run was just one of several driving incidents on his record. Most recently, Jon Jones was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 26, 2020, after failing a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test. Multiple charges, including negligent use of a firearm, were dropped as part of a plea deal on the DWI charge.

He also has to quit being dirty inside the octagon

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With all that being said, behavior outside the octagon isn’t the biggest problem MMA athletes have with Jon Jones. The Athletic recently surveyed 170 MMA pros from around the world on a number of topics.

The results showed that they consider Jones No. 2 to Conor McGregor on the list of overrated fighters and tied for fourth on the list of biggest jerks.

Those questions are more qualitative than quantitative, so the results could be chalked up to some degree of jealousy. The third question, though, is the one that poses a problem for both Jones and the UFC. When the survey participants were asked who’s the dirtiest fighter, Jones won in a landslide.

That’s a bad look for him and a worse one for the UFC. It becomes somewhat moot if Jones makes good on his recent threats to surrender his title over a money dispute with Dana White and walk away from the UFC. Realistically, there’s no place for Jones to go to earn the kind of money he can get from the UFC.

Jones’ trademark bit of mischief over the years has been to reach out toward opponents like he’s seeking to perform Spock’s Vulcan mind meld on Star Trek. It’s ended in poked eyes more times than can be counted, including against Daniel Cormier. The UFC is better served by leaving that nonsense to the pro wrestlers.

Add to that a propensity for aiming kicks at kneecaps and the illegal knee that cost him a two-point deduction against Anthony Smith at UFC 235 last year and the pattern of behavior is apparent.

How Jon Jones can regain the respect of his UFC rivals

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Jon Jones fought just once a year from 2014 to ’18, twice last year and once so far this year. Dominick Reyes, who lost to Jones by unanimous decision in February, has fought 13 times in that span. Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic has 11 fights to his credit in that same span.

The UFC is riding an uptick in interest this year. Even though UFC president Dana White hasn’t put great cards together, the UFC has taken advantage of being one of the first sports, along with NASCAR, to resume during the pandemic.

Jones needs to get himself back into the octagon on a regular basis as the UFC cashes in on new followers. That’s going to require some sort of financial accommodation by White, who’s at odds with several fighters over money at the moment. Like him or not, Jones does deserve top money.

But Jones can do his part by committing to getting back into action and not wrecking cards with positive drug tests or disqualifications like the one responsible for the only loss on his record.