clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

If you’re looking for a way to describe Jon Jones, mums the word

New, comments
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The name Matt Riddle continues to be more apt than anyone would like it to be. For instance, Riddle was released from the UFC after some "kind bud" snuck into his system (what else is there to do while playing video games?), while Jon Jones went a little Rick James there for a minute with the coke and has become a source of Tuesday pride for the UFC, the NAC and all the C’s thereafter.

As of today, Jones is in rehab. Riddle is in pro wrestling. Riddle is riddling; Jones is jonesing. They each know a different set of rails to their destinations.

And from an outsider looking in, this is all a little ass-backwards.

It wasn’t wholly surprising that Jones was using cocaine, which came to light Tuesday when news broke from Yahoo’s Kevin Iole that the Great Champ had entered a rehab facility just three days after defending his light heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier. Jones is 27 years old, a millionaire who came from restrictive circumstances, not to mention the greatest mixed martial artist going. He still believes he’s indestructible in more ways than just competition. Lessons come harder when you operate under this belief.

Besides, he’s had his share of problems throughout his career, the most distracting of which was his apparent identity crisis from the word go. Arrogance and humility have been at war inside of him for years. We know all about Good Jones vs. Bad Jones, the public brand vs. the actual man -- we’ve long been familiar with the dichotomy of Jonny "Bones." That he was using (and likely abusing) a disco drug behind closed doors shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.

What is surprising is just how asinine everything else seems.

Jones was randomly tested on Dec. 4, a full month before his UFC 182 grudge-match with Cormier. He popped hot for cocaine metabolites. The Nevada State Commission (NAC), in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), got the results back on Dec. 23 but sat on this information because the positive test happened "out-of-competition." The only way for it to be egregious enough to take action was if it happened "in competition," which in WADA language means in the vicinity of 12 hours before the fight.

Marijuana, which is as docile as an old cat, stays in the system far longer than cocaine does, at least in most cases. The way the rules are drawn up are such that we’re punishing not the import of the drug itself (apparently), but its staying power in the body. That is a little ridiculous. Just like PEDs are not equal to pot in competition, neither is cocaine equal to pot in the recreational spectrum.

What’s crazier still is why the NAC, which presumably acts in the safety of its fighters, and the UFC, which employs them, should allow things to play out as normal with this sort of elephant in the room. If Jones was affected enough to need rehab -- if he’s an addict, in other words -- those were some crazy dice being thrown by everybody involved for as long as they knew (and the NAC informed the UFC on Dec. 23). The fight game isn’t a good place for that sort of looking-the-other-way. There could have been disasters around any corner.

Instead, the disaster is confined to the aftermath, after the pay-per-units have been tallied. This makes everyone from the promotion to the sanctioning body to the muzzled people in the know seem more mercenary than feels wholesome. (Maybe the idea isn’t to get the people putting on the fights to come around to what’s humane, but for the public to embrace the fact that it isn’t). (Then again, the NAC is now considering revising its in-vs.-out of competition rules, so maybe this Jones thing will serve as a catalyst for change).

But let’s stick to Jones, because he was being hit with everything from prayers to punch lines after the news broke. His coach Greg Jackson cautioned a few years ago that the only man that Jones had to look out for on his run to greatness was himself. That Jones could be his own worst enemy.

Here we are again with Jones acting as his own worst enemy.

After defending his belt for the eighth time, and perhaps performing better than he ever has, he’s once again scuffling through a pile of asterisks. My own initial reaction is to say, Jon Jones, get out of your own way. When Anderson Silva talked about fighting his clone, he meant it as metaphor -- that he’d only find an equal in striking blows against himself. When it comes to Jones, he’s literally fighting himself every step of the way. The strikes he's delivering against himself are mounting in the eyes of a million judges.

The good news is that he is correcting his problem. If his rehab was strictly voluntary, that means he will take another black eye publicly to get himself right. For that reason, if the UFC gushing about how proud they were of Jones for taking the step felt a little over the top, so did the urge to kick a man when he was down. Jones isn’t perfect. Nobody is. And plenty of the rocks being flung at him are not only coming from glass houses, but the worst kind of glass houses -- the ones without addresses.

Jones is a conflicted human being, and he’ll be scrutinized for it so long as he stays in the public eye. His merits are extraordinary, and so are his faults. Neither can be kept secret, even when the people around him fight the urge to try.

This all goes into the riddle that is Jon Jones.