Jon Jones’ complicated legacy of MMA greatness and personal troubles
Jon Jones was only 23 years old when he became the light heavyweight champion in 2011, making him the youngest belt holder in UFC history. He looked invincible and the sky seemed to be the limit. But since then, it’s been a bumpy ride for Johnny Bones, with a mixture of breathtaking victories and challenges outside the octagon.
As Jones prepares to return to the octagon after a three-year absence on Saturday, making his heavyweight debut against Cyril Gein at UFC 285 in Las Vegas for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship, here is a selective timeline of a career filled with ups and downs. points:
April 12, 2008: Jones will make his professional MMA debut at the Full Force Productions event in Boxborough, Massachusetts, defeating Brad Bernard by TKO at 1:32 of the first round at catchweight (210 lbs). He will fight again in a week, and in another week both wins ahead of schedule.
August 9, 2008: Less than four months after his pro debut, Jones takes a 6-0 record in his first fight in the octagon as a substitute with two weeks’ notice and defeats Andre Gusmao via unanimous decision in a preliminary bout at UFC 87 in Minneapolis. . In the main event of the evening, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will take on Jon Fitch. In the co-main event, Brock Lesnar records his first UFC win by unanimous decision over Heath Herring.
December 5, 2009: Jones loses! (Technically.) In a fight he dominates, Jones is disqualified by referee Steve Mazzagatti for using improper 12-to-6 elbow strikes that hurt Matt Hamill to the point where he can’t continue. Many controversies ensue, including UFC president Dana White harshly insulting the referee.
February 5, 2011: Jones introduces previously undefeated Ryan Bader at UFC 126 to improve his record to 12-1 and is informed immediately after that he will replace injured teammate Rashad Evans in a title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua just over a month later .
March 19, 2011: Jones defeats Rua by TKO and at the age of 23 becomes the youngest champion in UFC history. The main event of UFC 128 is actually Jones’ second win of the day. On the morning before the fight, he turned into a superhero and foiled a robbery in Paterson, New Jersey by chasing a suspect while he and his trainers were on a run.
November 24, 2011: Jones is taken into custody in the parking lot of a strip club in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the city where he lives and trains. The traffic stop reveals that he is driving with a suspended license. The charges are later dropped.
May 19, 2012: Jones wraps his Bentley around a power pylon in Binghamton, New York, and ends up in police custody after refusing to take a sobriety test. Jones was not injured, but two of his passengers received minor injuries. He later pleads guilty to drunk driving, is fined $1,000, and has his license suspended for six months.
August 8, 2012: Jones signs a worldwide sponsorship deal with Nike, becoming the first UFC fighter to do so.
August 23, 2012: Jones incurs White’s wrath after refusing to agree to a short-term replacement with Chael Sonnen after scheduled opponent Dan Henderson pulled out due to injury. As a result, UFC 151 becomes the first event to be canceled by the promotion. White verbally attacks Greg Jackson, the trainer who advised Jones not to fight, like a “fucking sports killer”.
September 22, 2012: After Jones was rushed into the next UFC pay-per-view event, Vitor Belfort nearly submitted Jones, but he fights by hand and ultimately wins the UFC 152 main event via fourth-round submission.
April 27, 2013: Sonnen finally gets a cage date with Jones and almost becomes the champion despite Jones being dominant. While beating Sonnen in the UFC 159 main event, Jones sprained his big toe. However, he finishes by TKO with 27 seconds left in the first round. Had Sonnen lived to the horn, the doctor would likely have prevented the champion from continuing with a grotesque injury.
September 23, 2013: Jones is pushed to the limit for five tough rounds by Alexander Gustafsson but avoids fight of the year with a unanimous decision win. The main event of UFC 165 is Jones’ sixth title defense, setting a UFC light heavyweight record.
April 14, 2014: Accused of writing homophobic slurs to a Swedish fan on Instagram, Jones says his phone was stolen and his account hacked.
August 4, 2014: Jones appears with Daniel Cormier at a press conference in Las Vegas to publicize their scheduled title fight, and they end up fighting in a hotel lobby. Later that day, they are interviewed via split screen on SportsCenter. After the interview, Cormier is heard saying that he would like to be allowed to go where Jones is so he can spit in his face, and Jones replies, “You know I would kill you for sure if you did that something like that, right?”
September 23, 2014: For his role in the fight with Cormier, Jones was fined $50,000 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which also ruled that he must complete 40 hours of community service.
January 3, 2015: Jones and Cormier finally fight, and Jones controls the main event of UFC 182 from start to finish. He wins by unanimous decision.
January 6, 2015: Just a day after Jones was named to Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list of “brightest young stars” in sports, Jones saw his public image shaken when the Nevada State Athletic Commission reports he tested positive for the main metabolite in cocaine before the fight with Cormier. Jones reveals that he has checked into rehab. The drug test was done a full 30 days before UFC 182 and since cocaine is not on the out-of-competition banned substance list, the fight was cleared.
January 7, 2015: Jones is released from rehab in Albuquerque after one night.
January 17, 2015: The UFC fined Jones $25,000 for violating Athlete Code of Conduct rules due to a failed drug test.
January 19, 2015: Jones tells Fox Sports, “I am by no means a drug addict, and not even a frequent drug addict. I just made a very stupid decision and got caught.”
April 27, 2015: Jones is involved in a traffic accident in Albuquerque in which a pregnant woman driving another vehicle is injured. Jones turns himself in to police hours after fleeing the scene.
April 28, 2015: Jones stripped of championship title and suspended indefinitely by UFC.
September 29, 2015: Jones pleads guilty to leaving the scene of an accident with injuries. He is sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation.
October 23, 2015: UFC reinstates Jones to its active roster.
March 29, 2016: Jones jailed in Albuquerque for probation violation. A week earlier, police had cited him on five drag racing-related charges, and police body camera footage captured Jones calling the officer a “fucking liar” and a “pig.”
March 31, 2016: For a parole violation, Jones is ordered to take anger management and driver enhancement courses.
April 23, 2016: Jones returns to competition after a 15-month absence and defeats Ovince Saint Preux by unanimous decision to win the interim light heavyweight belt.
July 6, 2016: Jones pulled from a scheduled UFC 200 rematch with Cormier after being flagged as a potential doping violation by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
July 7, 2016: Jones holds a press conference in Las Vegas and denies cheating. His manager announces that they will appeal the failed test. “If I get branded as a fraud,” Jones says tearfully, “it hurts me more than anything else I’ve been through in my career.”
November 7, 2016: A week after the hearing, USADA suspends Jones one year retroactively for failing a test. The hearing found that the substances Jones had tested positive for were the clomiphene and letrozole metabolites found in tadalafil, an erectile dysfunction medication that Jones admitted he was taking.
November 9, 2016: UFC strips Jones of interim title, making him the first champion to be stripped twice.
December 15, 2016: The NSAC announces that it has imposed the same one-year suspension on Jones from USADA.
July 29, 2017: After another 15-month absence from the cage, Jones finally meets Cormier again and delivers a devastating blow to the head to knock him out in the third round and regain the light heavyweight title.
August 22, 2017: Jones is notified of a potential violation of UFC anti-doping policy as a result of a drug test on July 28 – the day before the UFC 214 rematch with Cormier. The anabolic steroid turinabol was detected in his body as a result of a USADA test.
September 13, 2017: The California State Athletic Commission cancels Jones’ July victory over Cormier, declaring the fight a no contest. UFC strips Jones of title and reinstates Cormier as champion.
September 18, 2018: USADA announces that following an appeals process, it has awarded Jones a 15-month suspension retroactively to July 28, 2017. He is believed to be eligible to fight again from 28 October.
October 10, 2018: UFC offers Jones to return to the octagon on December 29 in a rematch with Gustafsson. The main event of UFC 232 will be the light heavyweight belt, which the promotion is stripping Cormier of for failing to defend it.
November 2, 2018: The UFC holds a press conference at Madison Square Garden with Jones and Gustafsson, and as the fighters get ready for the photographers, Jones pushes the Swede. He later explained to Sportzshala, “I just said, ‘We’re in New York, let’s give the fans some excitement.'”
December 23, 2018: In an unprecedented move, UFC 232 is being moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after a random drug test on Jones reveals trace amounts of the anabolic steroid that got him banned last year. USADA says Jones is not at fault, but he can’t get his license in Nevada for Saturday’s fight.
December 28, 2018: Jones undergoes a drug test on the day of the weigh-in and is again found to have trace amounts of turinabol, the same steroid metabolite that got him suspended. This test result will not be known until the January 23 MMA Fighting report, which cites the California Commission…