Cars and drugs. If not for these two things—often together—Jon “Bones” Jones might be the face of mixed martial arts.
After a six-month stretch that saw superstars Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor beaten, Jones defeated Ovince Saint Preux in April to take the interim light heavyweight title. And the 28-year-old was well on his way back to the real thing… until news broke that he’s been kicked out of this weekend’s UFC 200 over a potential doping violation.
Which, sadly, is not that surprising. A look back at some key moments in his life and career paints a portrait of a man who offers consistent excellence as a fighter—and complete ineptitude at pretty much everything else…
2009: The “Loss.” Matt Hamill has two things that make him unique: He’s deaf and he beat Jon Jones. (He was basically unconscious at the time, but still, win!) With the disqualification for illegal elbow strikes, Jones dropped to 9-1. His record has remained unblemished since, even as his life became a mess.
2010: Family Affair. Arthur Jones, Jon’s older brother, reached the NFL. (Jon’s younger brother Chandler will reach it in 2012.) Both Arthur and Chandler have won Super Bowls, meaning all three Jones boys are champs in their respective sports. In the world of MMA, Jon won both his fights this year by TKO.
2011: The Breakthrough. When Jon Jones stepped into the Octagon on February 5, he faced another rising star. Ryan Bader won The Ultimate Fighter TV show and was undefeated, until Jones submitted him in the second round. Jones went on to TKO Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the title and became the youngest UFC champ ever at just 23. He fought twice more before 2011 was out, finishing former champs Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida. With a belt and without a whiff of scandal, he seemed poised to be the sport’s biggest, most marketable star.
2012: Drifting from the Path. In May, Jones drove his Bentley into a pole; he pled guilty to a DUI. This misstep can be seen as the dividing line in his career: the first glimpse of a dark side. Jones also feuded with his UFC bosses after he declined a fight with Chael Sonnen when an injury caused intended opponent Dan Henderson to drop out, ultimately triggering the cancellation of an entire fight card. UFC President Dana announced that Jones had “murdered” the event. On the plus side, Jones signed a Nike deal and won both his fights.
2013: A Rivalry Begins (Or Should Have At Least). Jones accepted a bout with Sonnen and, to the surprise of no one, utterly destroyed an older, smaller opponent coming off a knockout loss. More excitingly, the 6’4” Jones finally faced an opponent his own size, Sweden’s 6’5” Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson, and for the first time was genuinely challenged in the ring, winning a thriller by a controversial decision. Two and half years later, the two still haven’t had a rematch.
2014: Outside the Ring Action. Jones had only one fight in the Octagon, but got in a brawl with hated rival Daniel Cormier while promoting their upcoming bout. (Seriously, they do not like each other.) Facing sanctions, Jones testified under oath he’d already been punished because the scrap cost him his Nike deal. He later admitted this was a lie and said Nike dropped him because they weren’t interested in MMA: Yes, this does come really close to perjury. Oh, and he closed out the year with a positive test for cocaine. Even so, he was a model citizen compared to what followed…
2015: The Wheels Fall Off. Jones beat Cormier by decision in January. He then largely stayed out of the news until April, when he decided to see how many traffic laws he could violate during a single accident. By his own account, Jones:
1. Got behind the wheel the morning after a rough night of partying (“definitely was still really tired”).
2. Became so disoriented through a combination of “texting on my cellphone” and having “my music going” that during a turn he forgot which side of the stoplight he was supposed to look at: “I assumed it was my green light, but really, it was a green light for people that were going straight in traffic, and I was actually turning.”
3. Drove “right into incoming traffic.”
4. After hitting a car that plowed into a second, “freaked out” and fled the scene.
5. Returned to the scene to retrieve a “marijuana bowl in my cup holder”, only to realize it had “flown somewhere in the car” so he “took off running again.” (Witness accounts suggest he did seize a “large handful of cash.”)
One person who didn’t take off running: a pregnant woman whose arm broke during the collision. Incredibly, Jones only got probation for the incident, but the UFC stripped him of his title and he began by far the longest stretch of his career without a fight.
2016: Enough Already. Behind the wheel again, Jones managed yet another surreal incident after a cop stopped him for “drag racing.” This time Jones may actually have been railroaded—video suggests the officer goaded him—but if you’re on probation, it’s good policy to avoid swearing at cops. A Cormier injury canceled their rematch for the title, but unlike with Sonnen, this time Jones immediately announced he would take on anyone: “This last year has been real crazy and I feel like I owe my fans so much”. Now facing former football player Saint Preux, Jones will fight for only the third time in the last two years. Whatever the result, Jones has done one thing to suggest a brighter future is ahead: he hired a full-time driver.