The Jon Jones saga has been one with many twists and turns, to put it mildly.
The youngest UFC champion in history, Jones conquered the light heavyweight division at just 23 years of age. With the exception of a controversial disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, the phenom had been virtually untouchable inside the Octagon.
Outside the Octagon, however, was a different story all together.
Jones’ troubles have been well-documented over the years. Wrapping a Bentley around a tree, hit-and-run accidents, press conference brawls and multiple failed drug tests have tarnished his reputation in the sport he so easily dominates.
None perhaps more damaging than his most recent drug test failure, leading up to his highly-anticipated rematch with Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232, some five years after Gustafsson pushed Jones to the brink of defeat way back at UFC 165 providing the toughest fight of his career.
The test, performed by USADA, showed that Jones tested positive for a trace amount of Turinabol, the same substance that resulted in another failure and eventual 15-month suspension prior to his UFC 214 championship clash with rival Daniel Cormier. Both USADA and the UFC claimed that the most recent positive test was the result of a “pulsing effect”, rather than a re-ingestion of the substance in question.
UFC 232, scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, was promptly re-located to California after the Nevada State Athletic Commission denied Jones a licence to compete after not having enough time to investigate thoroughly.
Just another Jon Jones fight week, right?
In the main event, Jones picked up a third-round TKO over Gustafsson to claim the title that the aforementioned Cormier had recently vacated. For better or worse, Jones once again found himself atop the Mixed Martial Arts 205-pound mountain.
But one has to wonder, does anybody really emerge from the chaos that was UFC 232 looking like a winner?
Besides new champ-champ Amanda Nunes, of course!
The UFC caused many fans who had made plans and spent their hard-earned money to see the event in Las Vegas miss out on the opportunity. The promotion that once marketed itself as being the most fan-friendly in all of sports was anything but, showing the importance of profit over fan-experience. Moving the card to California on days’ notice with a kind of “You can make the drive” message certainly is not the wisest decision.
USADA, the end-all, be-all of drug testing, has tarnished their credibility through the whole ordeal. Yes, test procedures change and improve at a rapid pace. Yes, there is evidence to show that metabolites can remain present years after a substance is ingested. However, the case of former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir shed new light on the Turinabol issue.
In 2016, Mir tested positive for the very same substance. After going through supplements taken during a USADA implemented time-frame and finding nothing, Mir was given a two-year suspension. Adamant that he was innocent of any wrongdoing, the former champion requested the opportunity to test substances outside of the given time-frame to try and find the responsible supplement.
He was told, under no uncertain terms that the test levels indicated a specific period of several months during which Turinabol could have been ingested. Never was he informed of a potential “pulsing effect” or long-term metabolite which could remain in his system for several months or even years.
Mir’s position was that USADA was either showing preferential treatment to Jones, or were now second-guessing their own scientific procedures. While these conclusions may or may not be accurate, it certainly sheds negative light on the organization as a whole, especially given their past transgressions with other fighters on the UFC roster.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir’s explanation of his dealings with USADA on his official Facebook page.
And finally, the UFC 232 debacle has the biggest impact on Jones himself. This incident was yet another shot to his already damaged legacy. The man who would almost certainly go down as the greatest fighter to ever wear the 4oz gloves saw yet another wave of doubt wash over him.
While Jones may have been officially cleared of any wrongdoing in this particular case, a large contingent of fans will doubt that whole-heartedly
More often than not, where there is smoke, there is fire.
How many times can Jones find himself in some sort of trouble before there is some sort of major punishment given? Most feel as though his 15-month suspension in the aftermath of UFC 214 was more of a slap on the wrist than anything else.
As Jones prepares for his first title defence against Anthony Smith at UFC 235, this latest controversy will slowly fade away. As for whether or not another issue rears its ugly head is another question entirely.
For as great as the champion is inside the Octagon, and as much as he professes his innocence, the fact remains… 20 years from now, when friends in the bar on a Friday night talk about who the greatest of all-time is, there will always be an asterisk next to the name of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.