By Raphael Garcia
Professional sports are filled with a number of compelling personalities. For one reason or another, fans decide to cheer some of these individuals while booing others, and some athletes are given opportunities to become big stars, while others are left to become footnotes. Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones is currently doing a stellar job of squandering the gifts and opportunities he has been given, as he continues to come off as an individual unwilling to learn from past mistakes and put himself in a position to be liked. This is especially upsetting when he has an opportunity to take over as the fighter to watch for in the UFC.
Jones used a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to break news of his latest traffic violation. He told Helwani that he was pulled over while driving to training the weekweek in New Mexico and was given five citations by the officer, including one for drag racing. "I definitely wasn't drag racing," Jones said. "I got emotional and said some things that I probably shouldn't have said to a police officer."
But even though Jones denied the accusation that he was drag racing, video released by TMZ still cast the former champion in a negative light. The officer’s body camera footage showed Jones speaking very harshly to the officer, even calling him a “pig” at one point during the back and forth. He remained adamant that he wasn’t speeding and argued with the officer until the end of the video, which is more than seven minutes long. Jones is already on probation after a felony hit and run back in April 2015. This situation adds yet more fuel to the growing concern that Jones is a danger behind the wheel of a car.
But instead of throwing himself upon the mercy of the public, Jones continues to push back in a way that raises eyebrows and makes him come off in a less than spectacular fashion. Jones’ history behind the wheel raises questions as to whether he should even be allowed to drive a car. His track record is filled with multiple examples of being unable to follow the laws that come with the privilege of being a driver; when that is the case, most people do not get to push back against what they may deem unlawful treatment.
Back when Jones first captured the light heavyweight title back in 2011, many mixed martial arts fans believed he was presenting a “fake” persona. At first it was easy to find fault in their accusations, but over time Jones has continued to prove them right. Greg Howard’s 2014 look into the life of Jones helped reveal that side of the then champion. This most recent situation comes at a time when Jones stands to gain tremendously by simply stepping into the Octagon and doing what he’s done for so long.
Conor McGregor has lost. Ronda Rousey has lost. Chris Weidman has lost. At UFC 197, Jones will finally return to the cage as he faces Ovince St. Preux. While this isn't the big rematch against Daniel Cormier that was expected before the champion was forced out due to injury, this is still an opportunity for Jones to cement himself as the pillar that helps the UFC into its next stage of growth. However, his own personal growth will only be recognized if he can stay out of all forms of trouble.
Jon Jones has the ability to become the box office draw that many believed he would be back when he won the title at UFC 128. But to do so, he needs to walk into UFC 197 and defeat St. Preux in more impressive and emphatic fashion than his unanimous decision win over Cormier at UFC 182. Unfortunately, Jones’ actions outside the cage once again grabbed headlines when the sport should be focusing on the return of perhaps the greatest fighter of all time. UFC 197 can truly be a turning point in Jones’s legacy; unfortunately, he’s driving in the wrong direction.
• Jon Jones vs. Ovince St. Preux (UFC Interim Light Heavyweight Championship)
UFC 197: Jones vs. St. Preux (formerly UFC 197: Cormier vs. Jones 2) takes place on April 23, 2016 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.