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Jon Jones: Can Legacy Overcome Controversy?

Cover photo courtesy of Jon Jones via Instagram

The number of excuses for controversial behavior is limitless when PPV buy rates and sponsorship deals are at stake. No single mixed martial artist has been given as many passes as the ever-troubled Jon “Bones” Jones, who seemingly carries an unending get out of trouble-free card. While attempting to overcome these issues, Jones returns to defend the Light Heavyweight Championship against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in Houston, TX at the Toyota Center.

Jones may be the most dominant champion in the UFC, the greatest athlete of the decade, and the worst failed role model in UFC. All these statements hold merit when looking at his legacy. The Light Heavyweight Champion has never lost a fight unless we count the time Jones repeatedly elbowed fellow fighter Matt Hamill with illegal 12 to 6 vertical elbows until Referee Steve Mazzagatti was forced to disqualify Jones. In perhaps the most innocent, or at least inept, of his mistakes, we have a young Jones either unwilling to learn the rules or unable to follow them. And that is just the start of his career, eleven years later, and we still see lousy judgment and excuses being made by and for Jones

A post shared by Jon Bones Jones (@jonnybones) on Jul 9, 2019 at 10:14pm PDT

Jon Jones has been sentenced for a DWI, caused the cancellation of UFC 151 by not taking a short notice fight, brawled with Daniel Cormier at a press conference, caused a hit and run with a pregnant woman, forced the relocation of UFC 232 after testing positive for anabolic steroids, faced a battery charge after allegedly choking a woman and touching her inappropriately at a strip club, and those are just the big ones. ESPN has aggregated over a decade of similar behavior and accomplishments into a selective timeline chronicling this and more. The current issue concerning competition is the picogram of trace amount of Turinabol M3 metabolite steroids found in Jones’ urine. Jones will continue to fight with steroids appearing in his sample seemingly forever. Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance for the UFC, Jeff Novitzky, seems okay with this despite the headaches and troubles it causes everyone else. An allegation on top of that made by fellow fighter and conspiracy theorist Colby Covington says Jones paid to cover up the findings of the tests. Jones has vehemently denied the bribery, but this is just the newest claim to add and dismiss from the long list of controversies. For better or worse, Jon “Bones” Jones brings eyes and money to the sport, which is why all these issues can be dismissed. With all that fresh on everyone’s minds, how does Jones continue creating a legacy worth making everyone forget these predicaments? He’ll focus on a new weight class to solidify his legacy.

“I really want to fight Stipe Miocic. I feel like I could beat him… I don’t think I would need a tune up.”@JonnyBones on the "really good chance” his next fight could be at heavyweight and going "straight for the king” (via @arielhelwani) — ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 3, 2020

The heavyweight division seems to be the key to his legacy, where the most prominent athletes with the largest frames feature the most devastating knockouts. This is Jones’ chance to cement his legacy and make the world forget his transgressions. In Jones’ mind, Stipe Miocic (current UFC Heavyweight Champion) would not pose much of a threat on his way to earning the title. He told Ariel Helwani, “I feel like I could totally beat him, just based on his performances with DC (Daniel Cormier), our speed differences, my fight IQ, my versatility, my faith and confidence, I think I’m the guy to beat him for sure.” In all honesty, I can easily see Jones winning that bout with little effort as his athleticism and technique are that good. If he can continue another decade long dominating reign, the people may forgive or ultimately forget all Jones’ problems. We’ve seen similar career resurgences with Mike TysonFloyd MayweatherTonya Harding, and Bill Belichick, who have all had continued success despite overwhelming criticism and controversy. As long as Jones continues to win, he will have fans and apologists. If Jones wins decisively and spectacularly, then his fanbase could grow exponentially in the same way international sensation Conor McGregor continues to impress in the Octagon while disappointing so massively outside of it.

A post shared by Jon Bones Jones (@jonnybones) on Feb 5, 2020 at 10:44pm PST

Whether assault, cheating, or bribery are the issues of the day, rest assured that Jones will be there to dismiss their severity and lay claim to his legacy. Assuming Jon Jones can defeat Dominick Reyes at UFC 247, Jones will continue his reign of controversy and championships unabated for the foreseeable future. With his eyes set on the UFC Heavyweight Championship next, he could end up as the most gold-laden champion in UFC history. Unfortunately, he’s not the hero or role model we want, but he is entertaining to watch, and that’s precisely the problem with Jon “Bones” Jones.

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