UFC fighter Jon Jones is one of the greatest examples of wasted potential in all of modern sports. His various infractions outside of the Octagon—such as a hit-and-run charge, a DUI, and a doping ban—have curtailed one of the most dominant MMA careers. Sadly, Jones' career did not have to end up this way.
In March 2011, at the age of 23, Jon Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history, defeating veteran fighter Mauricio Rua to take home the Light Heavyweight Championship. On paper, the 22-1 record fighter has been the most dominant athlete the sport has seen since Georges St-Pierre’s reign in welterweight and Anderson Silva’s dominance in middleweight. Since then, Jones has won almost every accolade worth winning in the UFC’s light heavyweight division—he holds the record for most successful title defenses—and is as close to unbeatable as any MMA fighter in history.
Yet, Jones also holds some shameful titles. He is the only fighter to be stripped of the UFC title twice. Fast forward to 2016, the now 29-year old faces yet another year on the sidelines after failing a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) drug test. The one-time number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world may never headline another UFC pay-per-view fight again.
Jones’ highly publicized downfall has been just as rapid as his hard-fought rise. He isn't exactly a poster boy as far as sports idols go. Jones’ weaknesses don't lie in the technical areas of the sport itself, but rather his recklessness and lack of discipline. To see an athlete so technically gifted hindered by poor choices is truly disheartening for all fans of the sport. Jones has had numerous chances to redeem himself, but has failed to do so on all occasions. It could be argued that given his various incidents–including a hit and run in 2015–Jones shouldn't even be allowed in the octagon.
The UFC might not even need to take a chance on Jones, considering their newfound Irish poster boy Conor McGregor is raking in more PPVs then Jones ever did. The rise of McGregor and Ronda Rousey have helped the UFC to sweep the Jones situation under the rug. UFC commissioner Dana White was probably right to say that the fighter can't be trusted to headline another UFC pay-per-view, even though Jones is still talented enough to be on the card of a main event.
Barring setbacks, by the time Jones’ suspension is over he’ll be 30-years-old and entering into a light heavyweight division with improved fighters in Cormier and Anthony Johnson. He likely won't get a title fight immediately on his return, and White would be wise to ease him back into the division and have him prove he can stay out of trouble.
Regardless of what happens, Jones can either change his ways or keep on making childish decision and go down in the history books as one of the biggest wastes of talent. Jones’ meteoric fall proves that talent and hard work without discipline can only lead to a career of unfulfilled expectations. Jones will have no one but himself to blame for his failure to become the greatest MMA fighter of all time.