There’s something magical about watching an athlete dominate.
Like when Lionel Messi strides up the pitch like there are no defenders there and slots it in the top right corner. When LeBron James jumps over and through 5 guys to destroy a basket. When Usain Bolt literally seemed to dance his way to the finishing line as he set THE world record.
For me, one of those athletes has always been Jon Jones.
I’ve been a Jones fan for as long as I’ve been an MMA fan. When he was coming up, he was incredible. I remember when he mercilessly knocked out Shogun Rua, one of the icons of early MMA. When Jones was hitting those last few shots, he looked like a horror movie villain; unrelenting, vicious, a predator going after his prey, knowing that he couldn’t lose. He was unstoppable.
I think this last decade of the UFC will always be defined by two things: Conor McGregor (obviously) and Jones vs. DC. DC, Daniel Cormier, is, was, and always will be a hero of mixed martial arts. After intense childhood trauma, he became one of the best wrestlers in the NCAA, only coming second to arguably one of the greatest wrestlers ever, Cael Sanderson. He was dominant before joining the UFC, winning belts in every promotion, he was an amazing fighter.
When Jones beat him the first time – a five-round decision in Jones’ favour – it seemed like what we all knew was confirmed: Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones was probably the greatest fighter in the history of the UFC. At the rematch, it seemed to be confirmed again. DC, an absolute master of the sport, was knocked down and fumbled around as Jones finished him off. Undeniably, Jones was the best.
Then Jones tested positive for anabolic steroids.
He’d had some tenuous calls in the past, testing positive for cocaine use at UFC 182, his first fight with DC. He tested positive for various banned substances prior to his first scheduled rematch with DC, leading to it being cancelled and him suspended for a year, but this was found to not be an intentional usage of steroids. Finally, at UFC 214, when he knocked DC out, he was found to have genuinely been on steroids and the fight result was overturned and ruled a no-contest.
This becomes the dilemma of all drugs cheats in professional sports. We know he beat DC one time without steroids. So why did he need them the second time? In all likelihood, Jones probably beats DC without them. But he used them. He needed them enough to risk his entire professional respectability. It’s a difficult question. Because Jones is possibly the most uniquely brilliant fighter ever to walk into the octagon. He is more than likely the single greatest fighter on the planet. So why did he need steroids? Was it just emotional weakness? Did he think the future heavyweight champion DC was too strong for him? We’ll never know.
This all comes about because Mike Tyson recently admitted to using a fake penis and his wife and his child’s urine to avoid detection for drugs. He said it was because of cocaine and marijuana use. But how do we know? How can we compare him to Muhammad Ali or George Foreman when he could have been using steroids?
At the end of the day, sport is a pretty simple endeavour. It’s a person, or a group of people, agreeing to do generally quite stupid things. The only reason it’s worth watching is because everyone agrees to do the same stupid things. Otherwise, it’s just pointless.
MMA, more than any other sport, is a competition based wholly on respect. It’s two people literally attacking each other. And when Jones went in there with drugs in his system, he eliminated any point to the whole endeavour.
It spat in the face of every boxer who has ever been knocked out, every NFL player who’s been concussed, every athlete to ever break a bone or tear a muscle. It’s a disgrace. It was disgraceful. It’s a horror film and he was the villain.
It’s a shame. It’s a real shame. But it’s undeniable. He is the greatest fighter ever in the history of the UFC. But he’s not. He’s just another cheater. And it’ll always be how he’s remembered.
Also, he hit a pregnant woman with his car while high on cocaine, so that’s not great.