It’s been less than week since the UFC decided to strip controversial light heavyweight champion Jon Jones of his title following a felony arrest on hit-and-run charges, yet already the fighting future of the one of the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in history is already in question.
Jones most recent and most damaging mistake, which was his “last chance” according to Dana White, earned him an indefinite suspension. Even though he’s the world’s No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter at only 27 years old, Jones isn’t necessarily guaranteed to return to the Octagon.
His manager Malki Kawa revealed this cryptic news on today’s The MMA Hour, noting that Jones may not come back because of the massive pressure heaped upon him as champion:
“If he ever doesn’t come back to the sport, it’s because he doesn’t want to come back to the sport. If it was because of too much pressure? Could be. If it’s because of the belt? Could be. If it’s because the competition is too much, it could be. Whatever he decides is the reason why he won’t come back to the sport, but it’ll be solely on him. I’m not gonna blame anything or anyone for anything Jon Jones does. And no one, at the same token, can take credit for anything Jon Jones does. Everything that’s Jon Jones’ is Jon Jones’. The good, the bad and the ugly.”
Kawa continued on with the theory that if “Bones” is done for good, it won’t be because of all the negative headlines and criticism generated by his antics:
“If this is the last time we’ve ever seen him fight and it very well may be, then it’s because of a decision he’s decided to make. It won’t be because of something you guys are perceiving to be a problem. It won’t be because of any of the negative headlines of the positive things he’s done. It’s just because he feels he’s had it. Maybe that’s it.”
Even if Jones never does come back, his manager believes that he’s already reached the status of greatest of all-time based on his accomplishments in the UFC. No matter what, Kawa said, that distinction can never be taken from Jones:
“He’ll still go down as the greatest of all time and no one is gonna convince me otherwise,” Kawa said. “No other fighter has done what he’s been able to do. And I don’t think anyone has been able to impact the sport the way he has. The reality is you can try to bring him down any way you want, you can say the things he’s done, things he didn’t do — whatever. But I really do believe at the end of the day, he’s the greatest of all time inside the Octagon. No one can take that away from him.”
With a record eight straight 205-pound title defenses against a long list of former champions and top contenders, Jones certainly makes a strong case for that title. But it could also be argued that Jones would have gained the clear reputation of greatest of all-time if he had only stayed focused and kept his mind on fighting rather than partying.
Will he be able to tow that line if he does return eventually?