How Drugs and Stupidity Ruined the Career of Jon Jones, the Greatest MMA Fighter of All Time

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How Drugs and Stupidity Ruined the Career of Jon Jones, the Greatest MMA Fighter of All Time

The official mixed martial arts record of Jon “Bones” Jones currently stands at 23-1, but the “1” really isn’t what it appears. The one “loss” in the man’s record stems from a 2009 fight with Matt Hamill, back in a time when Jones was still a hyped, toolsy prospect rising up through the ranks of the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division. It was a DQ loss—Jones utterly dominated Hamill with both his striking and freakish wrestling acumen, but the fight was called off after the invocation of an archaic rule that banned the “12-6 elbow,” which is an elbow strike moving downward rather than side to side. Normally, such an infraction would have only cost Jones a point on the scorecards, and he would have continued on to an easy win. But because Hamill was already so badly hurt from previous punishment in the fight and couldn’t continue, refs had no choice but to disqualify Jones instead. And so, that one “loss” really wasn’t a loss at all. In fact, in his entire MMA career there have been only a handful of occasions when any opponent looked like they were on a more or less level playing field against Jon Jones.

The reason why is simple. Jon Jones is the most talented MMA fighter of all time.

There are only a few people whose accomplishments you can even put into the same conversation as this man. Anderson Silva during the height of his championship reign is one, but the last few years of underwhelming fights have not been kind to his legacy. A similar argument could be made for Ronda Rousey at the height of her powers as well, when most of her fights were being finished in under 60 seconds, but likewise, things eventually fell apart. There’s Georges St. Pierre, perhaps, who retired in 2013 and avoided ever losing his title, and is now eyeing a return in 2017. But none of them went up against the sheer array of talent faced by Jones. He fought the superior fighters, and more often than not he made the victories look easy in spectacular fashion.

That’s why it’s so damn sad that the man is apparently such an idiot.

There’s no other word for Jon Jones: He’s stupid, and his actions have thrown away the greatest set of talents the MMA world has ever seen. On Tuesday, UFC President Dana White made a shocking announcement: Jones had again failed an in-competition drug test ahead of his return/championship win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 on July 29. Less than a month after fighting for the first time in more than a year and re-winning his former title, Jones will likely be stripped of that title all over again, for an unprecedented third time. It’s all so stupid that it hurts. According to TMZ, which reported the news first, the failed test was thanks to the anabolic steroid Turinabol.

Here’s what Jones was tweeting, only days before he tested positive.

Not the best statement to make DAYS BEFORE YOU TEST POSITIVE FOR STEROIDS, Jon!

The Jones Problem

If you’re not familiar with the full saga of Jones, this is probably where we should rewind a little bit. Back in 2012, Jones was riding high as the young, popular, nigh-invincible light heavyweight champion of the UFC when he drove his Bentley into a pole and was arrested for DUI. It was the first in a series of warning indicators that went largely unheeded until 2015, when Jones was accused by Albuquerque, New Mexico police of fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run collision. He was eventually charged with a felony for fleeing the site of an accident, which resulted in an injury to one of the other parties.

After Jones was arrested and charged with the crime, Dana White traveled to New Mexico to meet with the champion personally, after which he became the first champion in UFC history to be stripped of his title for disciplinary reasons. He subsequently pled guilty to leaving the scene of the accident and was sentenced to “up to 18 months” of supervised probation, befitting his celebrity status. He was even given a way out of having a felony on his record, if he completed enough appearances for charity or youth outreach.

Jones returned to the UFC in 2016, where he faced Ovince Saint Preux and easily regained an interim version of the light heavyweight title—the “real” light heavyweight title remaining on an injured Daniel Cormier, who Jones had already defeated earlier in 2015. This would have made an immediate rematch/unification match obvious, except for the fact that this is when Jones first tested positive for banned substances. In July of 2016, Jones was removed from upcoming bouts after the USADA announced an anti-doping policy violation, which resulted in a one-year ban. What followed was a second stripping of his title (this time the interim title), making him the first fighter ever to be stripped twice. His excuse for the doping violation? Tainted “dick pills.”

That’s not a joke; that’s literally what Jones’ excuse was at the time. A man whose entire life and livelihood revolves around being medically able to compete, who is supposed to be on a rigorous and carefully monitored diet and health plan, was banned from his sport for a year because he didn’t bother to at all look into the chemical composition of his casually obtained, non-prescription erectile dysfunction medication. You can’t make this stuff up. At the time, he said the following in a press conference:

“I have never cheated this sport. Every ounce of my success has been from hard work, dedication, focus and a lot of times grittiness. I’m not worried about it following me forever because I believe that the fans will see what happened in the situation.”

Fast forward a year, to July 2017. Jon Jones is back—again! Jon Jones faces Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title—again! Jon Jones wins in decisive, convincing fashion to become the champion—again! And yes, of course… Jon Jones tests positive for banned substances—again! What else could possibly come next but the following: “Jon Jones is stripped of the title—again!” It hasn’t yet been officially announced by the UFC, but it would be the THIRD TIME their belt has been awarded to and then removed from this man. No other human being has ever had it happen to them more than once. If he fails his various appeals in what will surely be a long, drawn-out adjudication process, he could be facing a three or four-year ban from the sport.

And all because this man is such a colossal fool.

A Pity For Everyone Involved

How could anyone possibly be stupid enough to believe that, after such high-profile drug infractions, they could somehow sneak past testing this time around? What kind of arrogance does it take to convince yourself that you can beat the system when all eyes are focused on you so intently? How could anyone in Jones’ private circle not manage to prevent this outcome from happening?

Jones’ camp put out a statement on Tuesday, in the wake of all the tumultuous news. Unsurprisingly, it claimed innocence—why not claim innocence, at this point? There’s literally no reason to not give it a try. It reads:

“We are all at a complete loss for words right now. Jon, his trainers, his nutritionists and his entire camp have worked tirelessly and meticulously the past 12 months to avoid this exact situation. We are having the samples tested again to determine the validity or source of contamination. Jon is crushed by this news, and we are doing whatever we can as a team to support him.”

One of Jones’ trainers has been quite active on social media since the announcement, defending Jones and saying that the whole situation is somehow a “set-up” or fraud. But here’s the thing—frauds can happen, but they don’t happen repeatedly. This isn’t your friend’s first strike; it’s his third or fourth strike. The person we’re talking about is so stupid that he willingly popped unmarked penile enhancement pills without any idea of what was in them in the past—you can’t mount an adequate defense of that man by saying “He wouldn’t have taken steroids now; that would have been foolish.” Because Jones has shown himself to be foolish. You don’t defend a fool by saying that he wouldn’t act foolishly; you EXPECT him to act foolishly because it’s in his nature to do so.

The result hurts literally everyone involved. It hurts Jones, whose last chance for any kind of redemption story just went up in smoke. If he receives the expected suspensions, his body will have long passed its prime by the time he ever fights again, and any organization would be stupid to offer him yet another chance to burn them.

But think beyond Jones, to the quagmire that his very presence creates. If he’s stripped of the light heavyweight title and the last fight is ruled a no-contest, where does the title go? Is Daniel Cormier, a man who has been beaten decisively by Jones TWICE, given the now worthless belt again out of pity, or allowed to fight for it yet again? Who wants to see a “champion” who has been so thoroughly proven to be the inferior fighter? Because in the end, that’s the reality here: Jon Jones is a superior fighter to Daniel Cormier, likely regardless of any chemicals in his body. It’s hard to believe that Jones could possibly need any chemical aid in order to pummel Cormier as he did on July 29. But the monolithic crag that is his stupidity means that he simply can’t be champion. We all must acknowledge him as simultaneously the most talented and dumbest man in his sport. It’s like watching the world’s greatest concert violinist be unable to give recitals because he keeps getting arrested for indecent exposure the night before each concert. You just want to say, “God, what a shame it is for talent like yours to be wasted on a person like you.”

You can blame fame, if you like. In some oblique way, this is what fame, money and power does to the most talented individuals on Earth. Brilliance in any pursuit, whether it’s a chess champion or a great puncher of faces, is often followed by an equal degree of turmoil and trouble. But in the case of someone like Jones, it’s all the more frustrating for how easily all of his problems could have been avoided. He’s not Bobby Fischer, grappling with mental illness while dominating his chess opponents. Jones had it all, but threw it all away by making such stupid decisions that a split second could have changed any of them. Like “don’t walk away from the scene of an accident.” Or “don’t decide to take random mystery pills.” Or “don’t taunt your opponent about your clean-living habits a week before testing positive for steroids.”

These shouldn’t be the kinds of commandments one needs to physically write out.

But then again, you’re probably not as stupid as Jon Jones. Or as talented. And therein lies the rub.

Jim Vorel is a Paste Magazine staff writer who is tired of watching the world’s most talented people destroy themselves. You can follow him on Twitter.

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