February 28, 2019

UFC 235: 2019 Could Be A Busy Year For Jon Jones, and That's Great For MMA

By Adam Martin

After fighting only once per year in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones is finally on schedule to get back to his old busy self and fight on a regular schedule in 2019. Barring another failed drug test, Jones will take on Anthony Smith for the 205-pound belt in the main event of this weekend's UFC 235 card. Considering it's only March, should Jones emerge from this bout healthy and drug-free, he'll be on pace to have his busiest year since 2011, when he fought four times. And that's great for MMA, as the sport is better off with Jones staying busy.

2011 was the year Jones first won the light heavyweight title and became a household name in the sporting world. He began the year with a submission win over Ryan Bader in February, then jumped back in the Octagon a month later in March, finishing Mauricio "Shogun" Rua with strikes to win the light heavyweight crown. He returned in September with a submission win over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and then made it a perfect 4-for-4 year with a tapout win over Lyoto Machida in December. Jones was the poster boy of MMA and the UFC's darling, as he took main events on short notice just a couple months apart to help the UFC save its cards, and he made a lot of money in the process.

In 2012, Jones began to change. He won a decision over Rashad Evans in April, and then was due to fight Dan Henderson at the ill-fated UFC 151 event in September. When Henderson got injured and Jones refused to fight short-notice opponent Chael Sonnen, the UFC was forced to cancel that card and shifted Jones to a fight against Vitor Belfort at UFC 152. Though Jones took the fight with Belfort, the fact he turned down the Sonnen fight was the first hint he had that maybe he wouldn't stay as busy as he did in 2011.

In 2013, Jones beat Sonnen in April and then returned to fight Alexander Gustafsson in September. The first fight with Gustafsson was by far the toughest fight of Jones' career, and the damage he took in that fight helped convince him not to fight as often. In 2014, Jones only fought one time, a decision wih over Glover Teixeira in April. He didn't return to the Octagon until January 2015, when he beat Daniel Cormier. That was his last fight until April 2016 against Ovince Saint-Preux, as Jones was stripped of his belt for his involvement in a hit-and-run car accident that injured a pregnant woman. The man who we all thought was invincible was starting to show kinks in his armour.

After being pulled from UFC 200 in July 2016 due to failing a drug test, Jones was stripped of his belt once again and sat out until July 2017, when he defeated Cormier a second time. But again, Cormier failed a drug test and had his belt stripped. He sat out over a year after the second DC fight until he finally made amends with USADA and the Nevada State Athletic Commission and fought Gustafsson for a second time in December 2018. Though Jones was flagged for picograms of a banned substance in his system, he was still allowed to fight, and after passing more drug tests the UFC booked him to fight Smith at this weekend's UFC 235 event.

Considering how much time off Jones had had, how many fines he's paid, how many sponsors he's lost, and how much money all these suspensions and failed drug tests have cost him, Jones has vowed to get back to a busy schedule in 2019 and that's a great thing for the sport. For all of his troubles, Jones remains the single most talented mixed martial artist the sport has ever seen, and one of its biggest stars. The sport needs Jones to stay active and fight often, and it appears that 2019 is going to be the year when Jones gets back to his old self and starts fighting on a more active schedule.

Should Jones get by Smith this weekend, as most expect him to, he has another favorable matchup against Thiago Santos lined up for his next fight if he wants it. The UFC may try to book Jones against DC in a third fight, but there's a good chance that Jones tells the UFC he wants to stay active an keep fighting the top contenders at 205 lbs. That would be Santos next, with fighters such as Dominick Reyes and Corey Anderson up next behind him. Though big fights against guys like DC and Brock Lesnar would be great for Jones, at this point he realizes he just needs to fight and make money, and fighting lesser opponents like Smith makes the most sense for him as he looks to rebuild his legacy and fatten his wallet again.

Jones is an amazing fighter and it's been unfortunate to see him sidelined so often the last couple of years, but it looks like this is going to be the year he finally gets back on track. The sport needs Jones to stay healthy and stay out of trouble so he can stay active in the Octagon. MMA is better off with Jones as an active champion, and with him fighting his second bout in the last three months this weekend at UFC 235, 2019 is shaping up to be Jones' most active year since 2011. Now let's just hope the plan doesn't go awry. Fingers crossed.

UFC 235
Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith (UFC Light Heavyweight Championship)


UFC 235: Jones vs. Smith takes place March 2, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 235 Pre-Fight Analysis


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