How the ‘storm’ of Jon Jones’ past keeps catching up with the UFC champ

“I do feel like the storm is behind me.” — Jon Jones, Jan. 31, 2020

Jon Jones seemed very much at ease and focused as he looked inside of himself during an interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani prior to his Feb. 8 fight with Dominick Reyes.

The UFC light heavyweight champion talked about realizing that he had been “throwing a lot of greatness away” with the legal issues that had punctuated perhaps the greatest career in MMA history. He said he was ready to take accountability for his actions.

But words have a way of setting expectations that actions sometimes don’t meet. Jones has fallen short in this regard several times.

Jones was arrested early Thursday morning and charged with several misdemeanors, including aggravated DWI and negligent use of a firearm. He tested “at or above twice the legal limit” when he was administered a breathalyzer test after being arrested, according to the criminal complaint.

It remains to be seen how this latest brush with the law plays out for Jones, who already has a DWI on his record from 2012 and was convicted on a felony hit-and-run charge in 2015. A pregnant woman was treated for a broken arm after that incident.

And it’s uncertain what punishment — if any — will be levied by the UFC, which stated it’s looking into the matter.

The one certainty at this point is it will be difficult to believe Jones the next time he discusses having the storm behind him.

The next defense of Jones’ light heavyweight title was expected to be against Jan Blachowicz or a rematch against Reyes. Instead, those two contenders took to social media on Thursday to land shots on a champion who couldn’t defend himself.

Blachowicz tweeted: “Come on Jon, you have to find a more clever way to hide from me than a jail ;).”

“This is so unbelievable it’s almost laughable!” Reyes tweeted, adding hashtags of #sameoljon, #somechamp and #sad.

Thiago Santos, who nearly beat Jones on July 6, 2019, tweeted that it’s time to strip Jones of the title. He said the UFC’s 205-pound division needs a new champ, one that’s not forever in trouble. Santos tweeted: “I think me and Reyes deserve to fight for that belt!”

It’s unlikely Jones will be stripped of his title. The only time the UFC has stripped a champion for disciplinary reasons not involving a failed drug test was when it took Jones’ title after the felony conviction for the 2015 incident in which someone was hurt.

If the light heavyweight contenders want Jones’ belt, they’ll likely have to take it from him in the Octagon.

And judging by his performances after previous incidents, it doesn’t seem like that challenge will be any easier.

“I’m excited to see me 10 years from now. I believe I’ll still be on top of the sport,” Jones told Helwani during that late-January interview. “I’ve always had a very strong conviction that I could be the greatest ever.”

No matter what the legal system throws at Jones after this latest incident, his legacy inside the Octagon remains one of the greatest ever. He was the youngest fighter ever to win a championship and his win over Reyes gave him a UFC-record 14 title-fight victories. His only loss was over a decade ago, and it was a disqualification for using illegal elbow strikes during a bout he was dominating.

He lost because of unforced errors.

But Jones has nearly lost his last two bouts. The win over Santos, who was competing for much of the fight on a knee that would require ACL surgery, was a split decision. And UFC president Dana White said his own son thought the fix was in after Jones was awarded the decision over Reyes.

Jones made another headline in between those bouts when he was charged with battery after a cocktail waitress accused him of slapping her in the genital region, pulling her down into his lap and kissing her neck, according to the criminal summons. Jones pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct on Oct. 15 and received a 90-day deferred sentence, per court documents. Probation for that incident ended in January.

Are two near-losses and two arrests in the last eight months signs that Jones’ career is on a downward trajectory?

Or is the fact he fought through tough challenges in the Octagon to keep his record-setting streak alive a sign that his championship mettle remains intact?

Either way, the discussion of his problems isn’t being conducted in the past tense, as Jones tried to contextualize during his January interview.

“If people are talking about things I did five years ago, that means I’m doing something right,” Jones told Helwani that day.

That’s not what they’re talking about.

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