Once again, Jon Jones is returning from a lengthy absence. Once again, Jon Jones is returning from a suspension. Once again, Jon Jones is the lead headline as he returns, but it’s all about the story and circumstances outside of his fights. For the second straight fight, Jones will be taking on a former opponent, a rival, and does so while returning from a failed drug test suspension.
So why does the fight world still revolve around Jon Jones?
In a time where many are ready and willing to move past damaged public figures and athletes, Jon Jones has been the exception to the standard. If you think about it, that’s been the story of Jones throughout his incredible fighting career and the dark cloud that follows every step of that career, he’s been the exception to the standard. Being the youngest UFC champion, defeating legends and future Hall Of Famers throughout the rise of his career, everyone was watching an exceptional talent that seemed too good to be true.
As some have fallen victim to the limelight of success, Jon Jones found trouble outside of the Octagon and throughout his multiple legal situations, Dana White and the UFC stuck by him. Although there was drug use, hit-and-run car accidents, and just seemingly incident after incident with Jones, he would come back at UFC 197 and win, then again at UFC 214 and defeat Daniel Cormier for the second time.
That’s where the story of Jon Jones starts to really shape up. After beating Daniel Cormier and coming back from his first drug suspension, Jones seemed to complete what makes sports so capturing, a comeback story. Although Jones was coming back from controversies that he found himself in, he completed the comeback and everyone thought that a new version of “Bones” had arrived after defeating Cormier for the second time. The rivalry between Jones and Cormier seemed to be over, as “D.C.” even said after the fight “I guess there’s no rivalry when you lost to the same guy twice”, and then another failed drug test came back.
After failing the second drug test, Jones’ case would be handled by the California State Athletic Commission and USADA, and it all led to a 15-month suspension that drew criticism from other fighters who have had their own suspensions with USADA. It also drew criticism from those who have problems with Jon Jones and how it seems that no matter what is done, he’s the most beloved villain in UFC history.
During his second stint away from the UFC, Cormier would elevate his legacy to that of a legend and future Hall Of Famer. While Jones was away, Cormier would go on to become the second fighter to simultaneously hold two titles in two separate weight classes when he became the heavyweight champion at UFC 226.
As he was rewarded with the light heavyweight title after Jones’ failed drug test, Cormier would defend that light heavyweight title against Volkan Ozdemir at UFC 220 and after winning the heavyweight title, he would defend that title as well at UFC 231 against Derrick Lewis. In defending those two belts, Cormier would go on to become the only fighter to defend two belts in two separate weight classes.
With Cormier saying he is planning to retire in March of 2019 and the UFC possibly targeting a heavyweight title fight betweent “D.C.” and Brock Lesnar, it seems as a trilogy fight between the two is out of the picture for now.
So what now for Jon Jones? He’ll step into the Octagon at UFC 232 once again coming back from suspension and once again going through a rematch with a tough opponent he’s faced when he was champion. In Alexander Gustafsson, Jones will be getting who he called, the toughest opponent he has faced. This time, as Jones says the fight will be very different from their first one which went all five rounds, Gustafsson who has seemed irked with the multiple chances Jones is given, has a chance to shut off the spotlight on the former champion.
There’s no secret that if Daniel Cormier is gone from light heavyweight, there aren’t many contenders but there are a few fresh faces like Anthony Smith, Dominick Reyes, and Volkan Ozdemir who are waiting for a new champion to be crowned. The question, if he’s victorious over Gustafsson, will Jones want to welcome the fresh faces of the light heavyweight division or will he pursue possible big-money fights with top heavyweight fighters like Stipe Miocic, Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, and the long-shot of a trilogy with Cormier.
When he steps into the Octagon to take on Alexander Gustafsson, the spotlight will shine brightly on Jon Jones although his shadow has been his darkest cloud. Even with the frustration that has plagued the UFC 232 fight week from fans, media, and fellow fighters in having to relocate for the event, although he’s failed multiple drug tests, Jon Jones is his biggest self-motivator and that will continue to carry him. As the boos are heard more often now, the building still comes to a full standing crowd when Jones walks into the Octagon, and when he wins, fans and those who dislike Jones, can’t helped to be thrilled with his performances.
For whatever the reason might be, Jon Jones has continued to get chances and has avoided being outcasted despite his mistakes. The patience may be running thin from those following Jones’ career, but he wouldn’t have it any other way, and he is truly the UFC’s most beloved villain, who will have even more opportunities to cement his legacy if he is victorious at UFC 232.