It’s all anyone will be talking about in the MMA world for the next few days: Jon Jones has been stripped of his UFC title. His reign as light heavyweight champion is over, extinguished not by a shocking upset in the octagon but by a series of foolish decisions outside of it. In the end, it’s the culmination of a long history of bad life choices the now ex-champion has made over the years. Some will say it’s karma. Some will call it bad luck. Some will say it had to be done, some will say it shouldn’t have been done. In the case of the latter, what they’re really saying is that “we didn’t want it to be done.”

Stripping Jones of his UFC title, which he has held since March 2011, when he defeated Shogun Rua to become the youngest UFC champion in history, deprives fans of seeing some great title fights. It absolutely does. His scheduled bout at UFC 187 against Anthony Johnson represented, for the first time in years, a situation where the champion was in real danger. Not hyped up danger from the UFC and the media about how this most recent opponent was “his most dangerous ever” — but a real sense that Jones could actually lose the fight. Instead, fans get former challenger Daniel Cormier against Johnson for the now vacant title. It’s not the fight fans want, not that it’s a bad fight — but it’s the fight the MMA world at large deserves, to rip off The Dark Knight just a little. Bringing the hammer down on Jon Jones couldn’t be easy for the UFC; he’s a polarizing champion, and polarizing figures draw eyeballs. Yet it had to be done all the same. Letting him continue on, out of control, would send all the wrong messages, and do nothing to help the sport as a whole.

At twenty-seven years old, Jon Jones is unquestionably immature for his age, yet he remains a long-term investment for the UFC. Consider this: by most yard sticks, Jones is only just now entering his prime. Entering his prime while leaving a wake of vanquished champions behind him, having won, and won decisively, in nearly all of his eight title defenses since ascending to the throne.

Yet for all of his storied success in the octagon, turmoil and repeated social blunders seemed to follow Jones outside of it. The incident that led to his title being stripped, a car crash in which he is alleged to have run a red light in his rental vehicle, resulting in a three car crash that left a pregnant woman with a broken arm, then fled the scene on foot, leaving behind evidence of drug use, is only the most recent, most serious incident in a rash of bad decisions. For starters, Jones’ history on the road is beyond spotty. The wreck Sunday represents his fifth crash since 2008: there is, of course, his infamous DUI incident back in 2012, where he wrecked his Bentley, before that, crashes in 2011 (head on), 2009 (for which he was charged with Unsafe Passing), and 2008 probably should have raised warning bells. Five crashes in seven years is approaching out of control Hollywood startlet numbers after all.

Then there were the social media missteps: insults to fans, exposing himself to a woman online (video of which, edited, soon made the rounds in the MMA media), alleged homophobic comments. Somehow, Jones managed to weather each and every one of those storms, and the UFC, believing that Jones was the star of the show, stood by him, or in some cases, remained silent.

For a time, these transgressions could be dismissed with the excuse of youth. He’s young. He found fame overnight. There’s a lot riding on his shoulders. Since each trip to the octagon resulted in success, his work in the octagon managed to outshine the scandal outside it — until last year. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when things changed for Jon Jones, because in all honesty, he appears to have been in a downward spiral of his own making for some time, at least in his personal life, but if you had to pick a point, it would most likely be his brawl with Daniel Cormier last August, at a media event. That infamous encounter, for which Jones rightfully took most of the blame, resulted in the loss of his Nike sponsorship (much like his most recent incident has cost him his Reebok sponsorship). Shortly after, he was caught on camera threatening to kill Cormier. Most took it as just a worked up fighter puffing out his chest, but it still showed that if there was a lesson to be learned following the brawl with Cormier, then Jones hadn’t learned it.

Things went from bad to worse when it was learned Jones failed a drug test for cocaine leading up to his bout with Cormier at UFC 182 earlier this year. While many focused on the fact that the news was not released until after the fight took place (and that, for some reason, using coke isn’t a violation leading to suspension for fighters), it was clear that Jones was starting to unravel, though it’s easier to see in hindsight. He spent one night in rehab. One single night. And though that brief stint became the butt of many jokes, far too many people went back to treating things as business as usual, despite rampant rumours of a history of drug use for Jones. Despite all the evidence that had piled up over the years suggesting that there was a bigger underlying issue with Jones, and that something had to be done.

Now we have a serious car crash, and serious questions: was Jones high? Marijuana and a pipe were found in his car, and whatever your thoughts on the drug, he shouldn’t have been driving if he was in fact high. Was there anything else in his system? It’s probably too late to ever find out. Was that why he ran, when it would have been obvious to just about anyone that a rental car would easily be traced?

Lets be clear here: Jon Jones downfall can be attributed to one man, and that’s Jon Jones. He’s been immature, egotistical, and frankly, been lucky so far that things aren’t much, much worse. A pregnant woman with a broken arm could just as easily been a pregnant woman dead on the road; a smashed Bentley could have just as easily been an early, tragic death thanks to driving under the influence.

However, by no means should that be taken as rooting for the man’s downfall. He may currently be eating a huge serving of karma, but no one save the most callous of naysayers would be wishing ills of this nature upon anyone. Watching a man squander his natural abilities and success isn’t fun, it’s disheartening.

In short, Jones belongs in the UFC, fighting the best. It’s sad to see him gone, regardless as to how long.

Still, the UFC had to act. Did anyone really expect them to strip the title from Jones so soon, if at all? No, but this can be seen as an act of tough love. Scare Jones straight, get him to clean up his act, and all will be forgiven, make no mistake about it. Jones will fight again, once the court process plays out and he gets the help he so clearly needs. And under no circumstances should the UFC allow him back before that point.

It’s the right move by the UFC, even if punishment — suspension, fines, whatever — should have come sooner, to avoid the need to strip one of their most decorated champions. Still, you have to know how badly they wanted to avoid this; Jones fights are always a big deal, and losing that will be hard.

The best case scenario here is, luckily, the most likely: Jon Jones pleads out on the charges he’s facing, cleans up his act, and returns to reclaim his throne, or at least try to. It’ll be an interesting narrative, and from the UFC’s standpoint, a marketable one. How long will we wait to see it? Who knows, but really, Jones should not set foot inside the octagon until 2016, and until he can prove that he has, at long last, learned the lesson that so many have been waiting for him to absorb: whatever your accomplishments in your career, it’s who you are as a person, and how you act, that matters.

For his own sake, lets hope he finally gets it.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.

  • bonkerstheclown mcpickle

    The story of Jon Jones is one of the saddest stories of in recent history of a star athlete own success is their greatest downfall. Even very early in his career, Jones was a prick to his opponents, especially during the fight. That’s just how the guy opperates. Might be the type that needs to genuinely dislike their opponent in order to fight at his full potential. But otherwise, Jon Jones seemed to be a nice guy and a genuinely good person. But now, Jones life is just an ongoing trainwreck. Trouble is, it’s awfully hard to learn truly important life lessons when you keep beating every challenger with relative ease.

    In the long run, this will actually INCREASE Jones’ PPV drawing power. We all know very well that Johnson vs Cormier is going to crown the least credible champion in the UFC. Whether he is cast as the evil villain overlord returning or the penitent reformed sinner returning to be the face, king and future of MMA, everbody will desperately want to see Jon Jones fight the new LHW champion. It’s not just another comeback story. Nobody has ever really beaten Jon Jones. You gotta beat the man to be the man. People with no interest in MMA will tune in to watch the storied return of the greatest LHW ever. Jones’ fans will tune in hoping to see a reformed version of their guy reclaim his rightful throne. Haters will pay for the fight in hopes that the combination of ring-rust, legal distractions and loss of momentum will finally make Jones truly beatable. Unless the UFC miserably fails at promoting it, the card headlining the return of Jon Jones will surpass UFC 100 for PPV buys, mark my words.