The narrative has been passed along often over the last seven months. UFC president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta went down to Albuquerque the day after Jon Jones' arrest. Later that day — April 27 to be exact — White went on Fox Sports 1 and announced that Jones would be suspended indefinitely and stripped of his UFC light heavyweight title due to the felony hit-and-run charge.
Most figured White and Fertitta flew to New Mexico to tell Jones the bad news in person and see how he was doing. That is not how Jones views the series of events.
"Bones" told MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani in an hour-long, in-depth interview last week that he believes there would have been no suspension or title stripping if he was willing to fight Anthony Johnson as scheduled at UFC 187 in May, four weeks after his arrest.
"Obviously, they would have the power to say differently, but I really have a feeling that if I was ready to fight, they would have let me fight," Jones said. "Especially because there was no court date. I wasn't proven guilty of anything at the time. I feel as if they would have let me fight. For sure."
Jones, though, had other things on his mind. Part of him wanted to just hang up the gloves and never compete in MMA again. Fighting Johnson, a scary striker with one-punch knockout power, just one month after the arrest and felony charge? Jones had absolutely no intention of doing that.
"I told them I wasn't interested in fighting," Jones said. "I told them that I've wanted a break from fighting for quite a while. I told them that I didn't feel as if I could really focus on my fight with so much lingering over me. I knew fight week for me would be hell. The fans were going to give it to me the way I deserved it. I didn't really have the courage to go through that at the time."
To Jones, it was his words that caused White and Fertitta to take the belt and suspend him indefinitely. Not the arrest and felony charge.
"I told them do whatever you guys have to do," Jones said. "They told me that we're probably gonna strip you of the title and suspend you indefinitely. I said, 'Honestly, I could give a f*ck.' That's actually what I said. Sure enough, they took the belt and they did what they had to do. Shortly after it really hit me that I didn't have the belt anymore. That was a long day for me."
A UFC official told MMA Fighting that Jones' claim is "100 percent inaccurate" and the decision to strip him of the title was made before a meeting between Jones and the organization ever took place. The official said that execs flew to Albuquerque to offer their support, as well as inform him of their decision to strip him of the belt face to face. The UFC official added that the organization stayed in close communication with Jones, his manager and his publicist throughout the legal process. Execs also flew down to Albuquerque the day of Jones' plea hearing and attended the court proceedings.
Johnson fought Daniel Cormier for the vacant title in the main event of UFC 187. Cormier, the man Jones had beaten just four months earlier, won the belt by third-round submission. Jones said he watched the fight in excitement, with no hard feelings. It was a feeling of relief, which is why he didn't try to convince the UFC to make it an interim or anything like that.
"I didn't fight for it, man," Jones said. "I had nothing to prove. That belt doesn't solidify who I am as a fighter. It doesn't. I've beaten a who's who. I needed the break, man. I really needed the break. I've been an entertainer since I was 19 years old. Since the day I joined the sport, people were already hailing me as the new Anderson Silva and the future of the sport. I've always had a little bit of that expectation on me every fight that I've had. The pressure that I put on myself and the level I was fighting at, to get away from that belt for a while really set me free. Today, I really feel great."
Seven months ago, though, things were a struggle. And he didn't find the visit from White and Fertitta particularly helpful. Jones said he didn't think the UFC execs had his well-being in mind when they flew down.
"No, not really," Jones said. "They had never came to see me before about anything. They never traveled to come say hi or have dinner. The first time they came to Albuquerque to visit me was to take my belt away.
"Honestly, Lorenzo did seem like he really cared. Lorenzo seemed very genuine. He looked me in the eyes the whole time and said, 'How are you doing?' At the time, I didn't know how I was feeling. I was all over the place emotionally. But at the end of the day, it was a business meeting still. It definitely wasn't one that went in my favor."
Jones, 28, would not elaborate on his feelings about White, but it's clear he is still smarting from White's angry words three years ago when Jones wouldn't take a fight with Chael Sonnen on eight days notice to save UFC 151.
"Dana, you know, he's a business guy," Jones said. "I don't feel as if -- I'm not gonna sit here and bash Dana. I think Dana is a business guy. Lorenzo is a business guy, too, but he just comes across as more genuine to me. So I prefer talking to Lorenzo when I do business."
White and Fertitta were back in Albuquerque last month to speak with Jones following his guilty plea and conditional discharge. Jones has to complete 18 months of probation and 72 appearances of community service and the hit-and-run charge will be wiped away. Two weeks after the plea hearing, the UFC reinstated Jones.
During the visit, Jones said he expressed his desire to be in the promotion's good graces.
"I would like to be more of a company guy and do things right," Jones said. "But at the same time, I've been bent over quite a few times by them. It's hard to see where I stand, man. I hope that the fans are aware of some of the shenanigans they pull."
Jones will be back in the Octagon in 2016. He won't have the belt in his hands, but he has been told he'll get a title shot against Cormier upon his return. It's unclear when that huge fight will be. But part of Jones still thinks that if he wanted to fight Johnson earlier this year after the arrest he would still be UFC champion to this day.
"I do feel as if, if I would have been ready to fight, then I wouldn't have gotten suspended and my belt stripped away," Jones said.