You are Jon Jones, 35, soon to be a main event heavyweight. You were the greatest light heavyweight champion of your time, a time that happened after you fought to beat an injured Thiago Santos and a points fighter Dominick Reyes. Now you are trapped by a fighting business that you conquered between 2008 and 2016, before all the troubles started. You always fought for money and you keep talking about making a living the only way you know how. It was there, everything you needed, a career $14 million in winnings. How much have you saved? His younger brother, Chandler, the Arizona Cardinals’ All-Pro defensive end out of Syracuse, has amassed 108 sacks and more than $100 million in the NFL; he’s the true star of a family where your older brother, Arthur, also an NFL defensive lineman and Syracuse alumnus, earned more than you did sitting on the bench. The sums don’t matter, and what you did with it is nobody’s business but yours. We know that the United States judicial system is not cheap.
You knew you had ended up at light heavyweight. You knew it first. You understand what happened to you better than anything. You’re the guy who avoids the punches and wins the rounds. You share everything in the fight business with UFC businessman Dana White except the punches. Only your fellow combatants and your opponents share the pain. Dana will never give you a contract that entitles her to a percentage of the hits. That is your problem. You don’t have to rely on an agent to grant you the right to soak up patty-cake hits from the likes of Alexander Gustafsson or Dominick Reyes. By the way, it doesn’t look like any of those guys were elite fighters, but we didn’t know that at the time. The real monsters, the Magomed Ankalaevs and Jailton Almeidas, are moving up the ranks right now.
Much of his reputation depends on how well he handled Daniel Cormier, the porcine Olympian. The state of him today, with his fat belly sticking out of his button-down shirts! The second time you beat him and you got back what was yours, what he never really was, which was the light heavyweight championship. A positive test for a turinabol metabolite knocked it out again. Whenever you traded spikes with Cormier, you never called him a champion. He was not the champion. you were Once you crushed a little Maurício Rua, deprived of his beloved soccer kicks by those draconian UFC rules, there were only former champions at 205lbs.
You must have noticed the night in 2020 when Dominick Reyes outpointed you 116-104 in five rounds. None of you are the champion right now. In Reyes’ case, it’s for good reason. As Warren Zevon sang of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini decades ago, “If you can’t take the hits, it means nothing.” After losing two bloody fights to Eastern Europe’s best Jan Błachowicz and Jiří Procházka, Reyes couldn’t take a single punch from the enigmatic mountain man that is Ryan Spann.
You’re coming down to heavyweight now, the last resort of good fighters too tired to drop the extra pounds. MMA press poll today. What are those hacks writing about? Recently, the idea came up for you to fight Curtis Blaydes, who is good at everything except taking punches from Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou. I wouldn’t want you to have a chance with those two thugs either. But most hackers write about the people who are moving the needle in 2022: Leon Edwards, Alex Pereira, Khamzat Chimaev, Islam Makachev, the aforementioned Jiří Procházka and Ciryl Gane. These are the players of today, the names on everyone’s lips in a minor league game so resignedly that very few names are on anyone’s lips.
You look back and the past belongs to you. For eight years, there was no one like you. You were a fighter, not a symbol; an imperfect man, not a model. In your prime, you took out an entire generation of rising stars and old pros: Ryan Bader, Brandon Vera, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans. You ended up with every name on that list except Evans, and poor little “Suga,” the Ultimate Fighter 2 heavyweight winner, if you can believe it, looked as bad as any of them. you never have to fight Anthony “Rumble” Johnsonwho could have knocked you out, but that wasn’t your fault.
Then came his legal problems. A 2015 hit-and-run conviction when he crashed his rental car into two vehicles, one of which was driven by a pregnant woman. That was a felony and it cost you the title for the first time. “I have a lot of soul-searching to do,” you tweeted shortly after, then you served your 18 months of probation. In 2019, a cocktail waitress at a strip club accused you of assault, which you did not contest. A 2021 domestic battery charge when you were fighting with your fiancée became a felony after you got aggressive with the police and headbutted the hood of their squad car to prove a point. Four days after that arrest, you posted a video on Instagram of yourself lifting weights, with the caption promising you would never touch salsa again. You have hit the sauce a lot; he hits back much harder than the hapless Matt Hamill or Vladimir “The Janitor” Matyushenko, who has a pillow fist.
You pocketed that $14 million in fight purses and probably a bit more in endorsements, but that’s been cut in a lot of ways, like the cocaine you tested positive for a month before your UFC 182 beating of Daniel Cormier. Judging by your social media, where you’re always surrounded by training partners and coaches, you’re probably only alone when the doorbell rings or when you pass out asleep in your car. How much is left? You’re chasing that $10 million fight, but you’re not going to get it if you fight Curtis Blaydes, a star college wrestler like yourself, as well as a soft-spoken, non-charisma man who’s at least 30 pounds heavier than you. with active hips wide enough to give birth to octuplets. He’s a rest-and-pray giant with a gas tank that’s probably twice the capacity of yours, not a needle engine.
Last time, you quit while you were still winning. You ended up with the 205-pound title around your waist. A lot of people think Reyes beat you, but he didn’t. Wasn’t that enough? Probably not; we all have dues and bills to pay. I was embarrassed to see Reyes tag you, because you were the guy who didn’t get tagged, the guy who floored Cormier three times. No one else could do that. But even that victory was not enough. Cormier ran to the press to yell foul, and the second time his yells were answered: You lost your victory the same way you lost your title before the fight, by failing drug tests. Cormier held on as champion at 205 and eventually beat an aging Stipe Miocic to become the heavyweight champion, a “champion-champion.” You had nothing comparable and you never will.
You can still make a lot of money by letting the heavy hitters try to put out your lights. It won’t be the money you always ask for, but it won’t be anything either. What else does a guy like you fight for? It never seemed like it was for anything more than money. You were so easily and nonchalantly great that you didn’t affect people the way a ham and egg like Glover Teixeira, a hard-working guy you beat in five rounds as easily as if you were taking a morning dump. he did when he finally won the 205-pound title, his title, at age 42. That was a triumph. your victories are fait accompli at best and tragedies at worst. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith recently claimed you were above average at everything, but not supremely good at anything, but that didn’t stop you from beating it up. I know you can’t help a lot of people feel bad every time you win. But they do, and always will.