It’s been more than two years since the trajectory of Jon Jones’ professional mixed martial arts career was forever altered, but he’s still working to change the perceptions that have arisen as a result of his past transgressions.
In April 2015, Jones was arrested for fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident that left a pregnant woman injured in Albuquerque, N.M. After beginning that year with a clear-cut unanimous decision victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 182, “Bones” was suspended indefinitely and stripped of his light heavyweight championship.
The Jackson-Wink standout would fight just once over the course of that two-year period — a five-round verdict over Ovince St. Preux at UFC 197 in April 2016 — but just as things appeared to be turning a corner, Jones failed a drug test prior to his rematch against Daniel Cormier at UFC 200. With that came another year on the sideline, and now Jones believes, as his long-awaited return date with Cormier approaches at UFC 214, that public opinion remains largely negative even as he has worked to rehabilitate himself.
With a win over Cormier on Saturday, Jones hopes that he can get back to being regarded as the fighter who was on the path to becoming perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
“I think it’s really big fight for my legacy. The last time something bad happened, it was two years ago. I think people fail to really realize that,” Jones said during a recent media call. “Over the last two years I feel like I’ve really done the right things to get my life back in order. I’ve paid for the things I’ve done wrong. Then I had this estrogen blocker situation happened and it sent me backwards. I’ve actually been really proud of myself for just cleaning up my life. The perception is that my life is still maybe out of control, but if you actually knew me, and you lived in Albuquerque, and you saw my relationships with people and the community and the way things are turning around for me, you would see things differently. The UFC 200 situation really sent me backwards.”
While Jones has embraced his role as a villain recently, he would ultimately prefer that the focus return to his fighting ability. He hopes that his performance in the Octagon will eventually allow his detractors to forgive him for his past mistakes.
“I’ve forgiven myself for the things that happened, and I feel like I’ve done all the things to get my life back together. I feel like this win on Saturday is going to allow the fans to almost to forgive and forget a little bit about that hit-and-run car accident and start to get excited about my future,” he said. “I think getting this belt back is going to set everything in the right direction. For people to remember why I’m an exciting fighter. For people to remember why I’m one of the biggest pay-per-view draws in the sport. I think people have forgotten about the things that made me special.”
Since their first bout, Cormier has been quite vocal regarding Jones’ character. But even before then, their rivalry had grown into one of the most heated in UFC history. As the rematch approaches, however, Jones claims it doesn’t matter who is across from him in the Octagon on Saturday night.
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart: this fight has nothing to do with Daniel Cormier,” Jones said. “It could be anybody….this fight for me it’s about legacy. It always has been….For me, it’s always been about chasing greatness. This ‘DC’ chapter is going to be over on Saturday and at the end of the day he will be remembered as one of Jon Jones’ great contenders.”