With titles changing hands like most people change their underwear, you would think a guy like Jon Jones would have the keys to the UFC Kingdom. Jones has never actually lost a fight, was the youngest champion and has held the title from 2011 until he was stripped of it in 2015.
On the surface, Jones should have been a great representative of the sport. Aside from being a tremendous athlete, he came from a supportive family, was himself a father who appeared to be on the straight and narrow. He even had a brush with heroism in 2011 when before his fight with Shogun Rua, he helped apprehend a carjacker in Paterson, NJ. Soon, however, Jones’ dark side would rise to the surface and slowly engulf his life.
Jones first stepped into the octagon back in 2008 at UFC 87, “Seek and Destroy,” to face Andre Gusmao. After a unanimous decision victory, he launched his meteoric rise to the top of the light heavyweight division. Jones ran through everyone with apparent ease; he seemed unbeatable and eventually secured the title by TKO’ing Mauricio Rua at UFC 128 in 2011. Three years after his first MMA fight ever, he found himself the lightweight champion of the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world with a virtually unblemished record. His only loss came by way of a disqualification against Matt Hamill, a fight he was winning before delivering an illegal elbow. All of this by the tender age of 23, making Jones the youngest champ ever.
His fighting style was mostly striking based, but he also possessed excellent takedown defense and wrestling abilities garnered from his years as a collegiate wrestler. His resume included wins over MMA legends such as Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and other top-tier fighters. It wasn’t until his fight against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 did we see a chink in his armor. After 5 hard rounds, Jones edged out a decision. Many in the MMA community actually thought that Gustafsson won the fight.
Jones would meet Daniel Cormier, his would-be nemesis at UFC 182 in 2015. This began a rivalry that had the earmarks of a classic Ali-Frasier conflict complete with trash talk and actual hatred between the two combatants. This also ushered in the dark period for Jones. Shortly after defeating Cormier by way of unanimous decision, Jones was stripped of the title after he ran over a pregnant woman and fled the crime scene. The UFC cited the Athletic Code of Conduct Policy and put the Light Heavyweight title up for grabs. Cormier faced Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, one of the most impressive knockout artists in the division and submitted him, making him the new champion at light heavyweight. Cormier would go on to defend the title and clean out the light heavyweight division, taking out all of the top contenders. He was a hard sell to many fans due to the fact that he still carried that loss to Jon Jones.
As if his hit-and-run felony wasn’t enough, a urine sample prior to his fight with Cormier at UFC 182 revealed a suspicious testosterone/epitestosterone ratio indicating that Jones may have been doping. Jones was placed on a short leash and subjected to random testing as a result.
Jones was scheduled to face Daniel Cormier again at UFC 200 in 2016. It was the long-awaited rematch to settle score and determine the true champion. Jones was once again flagged for PED usage, testing positive for two banned substances. He was withdrawn from the fight and put on a one-year suspension. An emotionally devastated Daniel Cormier faced Anderson Silva as a late replacement and garnered an anti-climatic victory maintaining his status as champ. Throughout all of this, Jones maintains that he had unknowingly taken the substances.
Jones faced Cormier at UFC 214 in July 2017. The build-up to the fight was epic with both men delivering classic trash talk. Jones head kicked Cormier into oblivion in the third round seemingly ending the rivalry between the two MMA warriors. A classy post-fight speech from Jones seemed to put the whole thing to rest.
That is until the test results showed up. The banned substance Turinabol showed up in his urine sample. According to Chael Sonnen, former UFC fighter and steroid abuser, if Turinabol showed up, the testing commission most likely missed the “good stuff” because it is usually “stacked with other steroidal substances.” Throughout all of this, Jones and is camp claim that he did all of this unknowingly; that he was using clean, legal substances that were tainted.
As it stands now, Jones is facing a four-year suspension from the sport. If that comes to pass, it’s unlikely that we will see him in the octagon again. In a sport where so much is laid on the line, where only the elite of the elite find success, the most tragic aspect of this saga is that Jon Jones defeated himself.