The sport of professional mixed martial arts is unforgiving. The only thing more devastating to a fighter than the loss, can be the fan retaliation.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is arguably the best that the sport has ever seen, but in the eyes of many, he is also the worst. Not the worst in terms of his ability to compete and perform, but in the way he holds himself in the public eye.
Fans love to hate Jon Jones. Whether it be the criminal charges, the drug use, the eye pokes, or the cockiness that “Bones” presents on the microphone, spectators sit on the edge of their seats, waiting for Jones to fall.
“Am I perfect: no? Am I a christian who swears: yes. Do I love God? Yes. Do I love my family? Yes. Am I a bad motherf*cker in that ring? Yes. That’s it, man,” Jones said several months ago during a UFC 232 media teleconference.
At UFC 239 on Saturday night, Jon Jones will look to continue his dominance as he defends his title against Brazilian contender Thiago Santos.
As Jones enters fight night, the only blemish on his career record was a disqualification recorded 10 years ago in a contest against Matt Hamill, where a referee decided that the elbows Jones was throwing were in violation of the rules.
Prior to this weekend’s blockbuster UFC 239 fight card, UFC President Dana White has since expressed interest in working with the Nevada State Athletic Commission to have the loss overturned to a no-contest. While the attempt to erase the loss might seem like a way for the UFC to promote Jones as an “undefeated” fighter, it also gives fans who dislike Jones, more fuel for their fire.
After testing positive for Turinabol (steroid) and having his title stripped in 2017, Jones has since come back to win the gold once again, and record victories over Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith.
Santos is known for his striking prowess, but will it be enough to take down arguably the greatest to have ever competed in MMA?
Many fans sure hope so. They want to see Jones taste his first true defeat.
“I think at the end of the day most things are forgivable, especially in American culture. I feel like American people love a good comeback story. They love to build athletes and celebrities up. A lot of people enjoy watching people fall. But a lot of people enjoy watching people climb after this bullsh*t and my goal is to climb back up and get it right,” Jones said.
Just as when Conor McGregor shocked the world by knocking out Jose Aldo, or Holly Holm crushing Ronda Rousey with a head kick, a win like that for Thiago Santos would propel him to super stardom.
But what would be become of the legacy of Jon Jones?
While it is evident that Jones is a UFC Hall of Famer, without a doubt, a loss on Saturday could spell disaster. Once a fighter, especially an extremely dominant one, tastes true defeat, it is hard to comeback mentally 100%.
While Jones likely would not drop from the rankings or face much adversity in climbing back to the top spot, it does leave the question as to whether he should be labeled as the greatest of all time, or “GOAT.”
The majority of mixed martial arts fans have not heard of Santos unfortunately and should Jones be taken out by the Brazilian, fans will question previous wins over some of the greatest to have competed in the sport. Fighters like Daniel Cormier, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and more.
Every success that Jones had will be put in to question because of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s findings. Whether or not the outcome of the fight was swayed by what was put into his body, fans will always question Jon Jones. And that is what could wear on the fighter, the road back, and the eventual legacy.
UFC 239 takes place Saturday, July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.