As with many young athletes, sometimes the pressures of being on top is too much to handle. We will take a look at the rise and fall of Jon “Bones” Jones and try to understand what could have caused to top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet to crumble and go from having the world in his palms to losing it all.

Born Jonathan Dwight Jones on July 19, 1987, in Rochester, N.Y.,  Jones started wrestling at Union-Endicott High School where he was a standout athlete. Jones also tried his hand at football as a defensive lineman where he gained his nick name “Bones” due to his lanky stature. Jones then went on to college at Iowa Central Community College where he won a National JUCO championship. He then transferred to Morrisville College where he was studying Criminal Justice, but decided to drop out to pursue a career in MMA.

Jones made his professional MMA début in the spring of 2008 where he went (6-0-0) over a three-month period. He finished all 6 of his opponents. Having done so well, the UFC was taking notice. Jones would fight one more time at BCX 5 for the USBKA light heavyweight championship. Jones dropped Moyses Gabin in the second round via TKO and walked away with the belt.

Jones was finally in the UFC with his first bout against Andre Gusmao at UFC 87 on Aug. 9, 2008. This was a short notice fight for Jones as he only had 2 weeks to prepare due to a withdraw from Tomasz Drwal. Jones put on a spectacular show in his first fight, using his wrestling, and showcasing his amazing striking skills using spinning back elbows and kicks. Jones would win by unanimous decision for the first time in his career. Next up, Jones would face UFC Vet Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94. Jones controlled the fight from start to end with outstanding wrestling and his crazy unorthodox striking, almost finishing Bonnar in the second with a spinning back elbow that dropped Bonnar to the mat. Jones however was unable to put away Bonnar and took home another unanimous decision.

For his third fight in the UFC, Jones would face Jake O’Brien at UFC 100 in July of 2009. This fight was a bit of a different approach for Jones as he decided to work his standup game with his reach and his ability to stay on the outside. Midway through the second round, Jones ducked low and threw another of his signature spinning back elbows that landed flush on the top of O’Brien’s head sending him to the mat. Jones would finish this fight with a guillotine choke where O’Brien would pass out before the ref could stop the fight. After three straight wins, Jones given a new four-fight contract with the UFC in September of 2009.

In December of 2009, Jones would get his next fight and it would be with TUF vet Matt “The Hammer” Hamill. Jones came out and outwrestled Hamill and controlled Hamill on the ground where he started to land some very destructive elbows from the top. Jones would end up being disqualified for throwing 12-6 elbows on Hamill’s already battered face. At first the referee had only deducted a point for the elbows, but due to Hamill not being able to continue, the fight was declared a disqualification for Jones making it the first loss in his career. Next up Jones would face Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC live on Aug. 1, 2010, where he brought back the elbows that lost him his last fight. This time jones would throw the elbows correctly and finished Matyushenko in the first two minutes of the fight. UFC President, Dana White, told Jones that after the win he would get a bump up in competition.

After the Matyushenko fight White stated “Jones is now in the top 8 in the LHW division. This kid is the real deal, he needs to keep his head together, stay focused and keep doing the right things in training. He’s smart, good looking and bad-ass. He’s going to make a lot of money, this kid is going to do very well”.

Jones would next face Ryan Bader at UFC 126 on February 5th 1011. Jones would win the fight via guillotine chock in the second round after dominating Bader in the first. Following the win over Bader Jones was called in to replace then friend and training partner Rashad Evans, due to a knee injury sustained by Evans. Jones would finally get his chance to prove he was the best Light Heavy Weight on the planet.

On March 19, 2011,  Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Jones met for the light heavyweight championship of the world. Jones would come out with a flying knee that hurt the champ right out the gate. Jones then dominated the champ for the next three rounds finishing Rua in the third round after delivering a hard body shot followed by a knee that dropped the champ and the referee was forced to stop the fight, making Jones the youngest UFC champion in the history of the organization.

Next up for the newly minted champ would be former friend and training partner Rashad Evans. This time it would be an injured Jones that would cause the fight to be delayed. After opting to use rest a relaxation for a hand injury instead of the recommended surgery, Jones would face Quinten “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 135 on Sept. 24, 2011, for his first title defense. Jones would win the fight via rear naked-choke in the fourth round making it the first time in his career “Rampage” had been submitted.

Once again, Evans was next in line for the champ, but once again, a hand injury was the cause of the fight being cancelled, this time it was Evans hand though. At UFC 140 on Dec. 10, 2011, Lyoto Machida stepped in for the fight and was submitted in the second round via guillotine choke in the second round that would drop a unconscious Machida to the mat, making it the first time the former LHW champ had been submitted. Jones would finally get the fight against Evans at UFC 145 on April 21, 2012, where he would take home the nod via unanimous decision. After the fight it was revealed that Dan Henderson would be next in line, but “Hendo” was pulled from the fight with only days before the fight Chael Sonnen was offered the fight buy Jones would turn down the fight causing UFC 151 to be cancelled. This was the first time in the history of the organization that a UFC was cancelled. 

On May 19, 2012, we would see the first string of troubles in the young champions life when he crashed his Bentley into a pole in Binghamton, N.Y., Jones was placed under arrest for DUI and was later bailed by his mother. Jones plead guilty to the DUI charge and was fined $1,000.00. He also installed ignition interlocks on all of his vehicles. He also was required to complete a victims impact class, and his license was suspended for six months.

Lyoto Machida was the granted a rematch with the champ, but declined due to lack of training time. The fight was given to Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 on Sept. 22, 2012. Belfort secured an arm bar in the first round that almost brought an end to Jones winning streak. However, Jones fought through the arm bar and submitted Belfort in the fourth round with a key lock. This victory would tie former champ Chuck Liddell title defense record.

Jones was then called to coach opposite Chael Sonnen on the Ultimate Fighter Season 17. The two would end up fighting after the show ended where Jones would win with a TKO victory in the first round. Jones did walk away with a substantial injury, (dislocated and exposed big toe). This win made Jones tied with former champ, Tito Ortiz, for most consecutive LHW title defenses in the history of the UFC.

Next in line for the champ was Swedish standout fighter Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 in September of 2013. This would be the hardest test to date for the young champ. Gustafsson would take jones to the deepest place he has ever been. This fight was the first time we saw Jones being fought on the same level he dishes out. Jones would end up winning the fight in a controversial unanimous decision win that would send both fighters the ER.  

On April 26, 2014 at UFC 172 Jones would face Glover Teixeira and would win the fight with a unanimous decision victory. 

Jones was then slated to rematch with Gustafsson at UFC 177 on Aug. 30, 2014, for what was expected to be the biggest rematch for the champ. Jones however expressed interest in a fight Daniel Cormier instead of Gustafsson. On June, 5, 2014 it was confirmed that it would be Gustafsson that would face Jones next at UFC 178 on Sept. 27, 2014. Gustafsson was forced to withdraw from the event and Daniel Cormier was named as the new opponent. The fight was scheduled for Jan. 3, 2015, at UFC 182. During a press conference for this event the two fighters squared off, when Jones nudged Cormier’s head with his, Cormier grabbed the champs throat, Jones then started swinging and took Cormier to the ground where the fight was quickly broken up, Cormier followed up by throwing his shoe at Jones. Jones was fined $50,000 and given 40 hours on community service for his role in the altercation.

On Jan. 6, 2015, It was made public that Jones had failed a pre-fight drug test. The test came back positive for benzoylecgonine, which is the primary metabolite found in cocaine. This test was taken out of competition, there for Jones was not punished by the NSAC since cocaine is not a banned substance out of competition. Jones was however fined $25,000 by the UFC for violating the UFC’s athletic code of conduct. Jones entered rehab where he stayed for 24 hours and released himself, stating “I’m not a cocaine addict by any means or not even a frequent user. I just made a really dumb decision and got caught with my pants down in this whole situation”.

Jones was set to face UFC vet and newly ranked #1 LHW Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 on May 23rd..

On April 27th, reports started coming in that Jones was involved in a hit and run accident involving two other vehicles in Albuquerque, N.M., where he now lives and trains. An off duty police officer was at the scene and described an African American man wearing a white button up shirt and dark pants, was seen running away from the accident, which he believed was Jones. According to other witnesses, the man was then seen returning to the vehicle where he grabbed a handful of cash and ran off again. After investigating the rental car, they found paper work in Jonathan Jones name on the rental papers. A pipe and a small amount of marijuana was also found in the vehicle. Initially, Jones was only a person of interest, and was wanted for questioning.

As time progressed, reports came from the hospital that one of the victims of the crash, a 25-year-old pregnant woman sustained a broken arm in the collision. The misdemeanor charged was then raised to a felony charge for causing bodily injury and an arrest warrant was issued for the UFC’s light heavyweight champion. Jones turned himself in with his lawyers present and was formally charged. Later that night, Jones posted $2,500 bail and was released. UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC President Dana White traveled to New Mexico for a meeting with Jones. That same day, Jones was stripped of his title and was removed from the UFC rankings, he was also suspended indefinitely. In an official statement by the UFC “Jones was stripped of his belt for violating the Athlete Code of Conduct Policy”. The UFC believed that was in the best interest of the company and the fighter, so he could focus on his legal problems and his personal life, they did however say they would be supportive of Jones during the process. In the same day, Jones was told by Reebok that they would no longer sponsor him after finding out of the new charges against him.

We now will wait for the outcome in court to see if the UFC will reinstate Jones or if they will cut him from the organization completely.

Like many other young talented athletes, money and fame come at a hard price and for some, it is too much to handle.

Will Jones rise, or will he remain down? Only time will tell.


About The Author

Jeremiah York
Staff Writer

In 1993 at 16 years old my Mom let me order UFC #1 on PPV. Then and there my life changed! To find a sport that put man against man, skill against skill in the rawest form was absolutely amazing! My love for MMA was found and I have been following all aspects of Combat Sports since. If I'm not traveling to watch fights I am studying and catching up on everything MMA at home. I am a Denver Native, but I live in TX now where the fight scene is booming! When I'm not watching and dissecting fights I'm out in the market selling beer as the TX Area Sales Manager for Uinta Brewing.