Articles

The Problem With Enabling Jon Jones

It’s been a week or two that has seen many big stories relating to domestic abuse cases within the world of MMA - both from the arrest and subsequent cutting of Luis Pena from the UFC, and the more unclear case involving the legendary Chuck Liddell, which, just to be clear, is still up in the air due to the claims from The Iceman that it was, in fact, him - and not his partner, who was the victim.

But look, I’m in no position to get into it.

It’s just been a heavy time as far as stories of this type are concerned within the sport.

But, of course, it was the dramatic saga involving the former UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones that has truly gripped our community - as the increasingly familiar sight of an unsavoury headline relating to this troubled star comes as another big shock to both his fans and his detractors.

Or I suppose, it’s not really a surprise anymore at this stage, is it?

Look, I can only really say so much about this - the details are indeed quite troubling - and you don’t need me to tell you what it looks like, or what the most likely truth is.

But if we’re going to speak about this in terms of what we know as concrete facts, even then, this is a terrible look for Jon Jones.

I love speaking about the fights, the fandom, the narratives that form between these elite athletes and how they perform under the weight of expectation and pressure.

But the story of Jon Jones has been increasingly removed from that - and I doubt I even need to go through all of the instances.

Everything from his initial hit and run charge to the rather disturbing reports of him firing a gun while drunk in his car in the middle of last year’s lockdown.

The drinking, the arrests, his constant attempts to brush these things off as part of his path and eternal struggle towards greatness.

I’m sympathetic to Jon to a point - but it has been clear for years and years that this guy is not coping well with the life that he has carved out for himself.

He recently admitted to the world that he was molested as a child - during one of his statements on the matter at hand, and, of course, if that’s true, that’s without question a terrible revelation that more likely than not had a hand in shaping the man he is today.

But for me, this entire debacle took on a greater level of meaning when his team - or specifically his long-time coach and mentor Mike Winkeljohn of JacksonWinkMMA decided to bar him from the gym until he sorted his life out.

And I suppose to see the response from Jon - to that quote unquote ‘loss of support’ - spoke volumes about Jon’s headspace right now.

This ‘if you’re not with me, you’re actively against me’ mentality - the line of thinking that would peg the coaches that stayed alongside him through this, and the UFC, Dana White, and everyone else who hasn’t held him directly accountable as the good guys in this situation.

It’s like Jon Jones feels that he is entitled to these support systems due to the almighty struggle that lies ahead of him.

But if you really stop and think about it, Mike Winkeljohn seems like the only one of that aforementioned group who actually had the balls to drop the hammer on Jones - to do something that while initially painful and detrimental to both sides, in terms of future success and financial gain - is the type of tough love that this guy needs.

And the fact that Jones’ immediate response was to once again make this about him - and what he has lost, in terms of support, yea, that doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Look, I don’t want to sit here and muse over the details of another man’s life - when all I have is a snapshot given to me through headlines, social media posts, and patterns that have developed within the public eye over the last decade or so.

But to me, it does look as though Jon is making a calculated attempt to control the narrative that surrounds him at this point.

I mean, he posted a video of himself working out with Randy Newman’s ‘You Got A Friend In Me’ the day after this harrowing news story broke - which even if the whole thing was a major, major misunderstand, would have just been the most insensitive and tasteless way to make your first public response.

And I feel like the more I speak about the more I’m going to interrupt myself every few moments to add the disclaimer that it’s actually none of my business, nor is it really correct to assume things based on what little we can ascertain from social media and the news cycle.

But I think the numerous cases against this guy, and his clear lack of remorse and willingness to playfully brush it off - once again dragging it back to it being all about him and his personal struggle, thanking his fans with a charming smile like he just got momentarily knocked off the horse riding towards his greater calling.

Well, there’s is something foul about that - and I don’t even need to put a label on what that says about Jon Jones and whatever issues lie within his psychological makeup and personality because I’m implying it as heavy as can be.

I’m a big fan of Jon Jones the fighter - and I respect the hell out of him as a competitor, but if there has been one thing that has defined his attitude to each of these very public controversies - it’s that he knows he’s safe, he knows the public are fickle - that after a few months and Instagram posts of him working in the gym with a smile on his face, all will be forgotten and the narrative will be one that describes the latest comeback and rise in his career.

Because he has the talent to pull it off, and those who have power over his professional situation refuse to hold him accountable - the UFC, his coaches, his management.

And that’s why I think Mike Winkeljohn deserves the highest of praise, because he did just that - even if he loses himself a payday or two in the process.

Cause it ain’t gonna come from Dana.

They cut Luis Pena, and when he was asked about the parallels between Pena’s case and Jon Jones - in the most Dana White fashion ever he said something along the lines of ‘yea, it could happen to anyone’.

And look, I don’t expect the UFC president to do anything other than deflect a question like that - he’s a businessman and Jon Jones, even through all of this, is an asset in a way that Luis Pena simply is not.

But I suppose I’m just too used to seeing this pattern play out - and though it might sound like it’s frustrating me to no end, while in some ways that’s true, it just says a lot about the integrity of the promotion and the sport when someone this volatile is being enabled to such an extent.

Because we’ve seen this story play out before - both in the world of sport and in the world of celebrity culture as a whole, and I think that the truly disturbing thing here is that those who have the power to really put pressure on this great athlete to make something better of himself, are just so fixated on short term gain to make the move.

And there’s no real moral to this video, I just find it kind of troubling - and it’s hard not to have some level of fear for the future of Jon Jones.

But yea, I don’t how this is going to play out.

I can’t say for sure that Jon isn’t really making an effort to sort his life out, that a switch has finally been hit in his head and the path ahead of him has become clear.

But based on what he has chosen to share with us in the last week or two, it looks unlikely.

I would imagine that Jones is going to fight again next year, seeing as the UFC don’t look set to do anything - and when that happens, he’ll continue to charm those who know no better and keep the rest of us worried about where this wild road will take him next.

In making a video about this guy, it obviously pushes the content into tricky territory because this is a human being I’m talking about - it’s not about him playing the heel, or indulging in some trash-talking.

This is beyond fighting, and completely outside of my jurisdiction.

But yea, as much as I find this to be a very awkward topic, and not really an overly nice thing to publicly speak on, I felt like making a video on the matter because of how unavoidable a subject it has been - both over the last few weeks and just in general when it comes to Jon Jones.

I want him to figure himself out, I want to see him rekindle his relationship with Mike Winkeljohn down the line, rise up to heavyweight and add another incredible chapter to what has already been an all-time great career.

But it’s just hard to get too hopeful when we’ve all been so thoroughly exposed to the type of guy Jon Jones is - and to the layers of safety nets that hang beneath him, it’s not a good combination.

All I can do is wish the best to him, and express my hope that he is both given, and that he gives himself the opportunity to really take a look at this patch in his life, and put it behind him.

I think that’s all I’ve got.

So yea, I know there’s probably a wide range of opinions on the guy and even on the very nature of how much interest and investment it is fair of us to have in what should be a private matter between him and his family.

I suppose that’s not the nature of the internet age, though, so here we are.