The first time Jon Jones saw the UFC 214 promo — the one that details step by step the mistakes he has made over the last six years — he didn’t love it. The rehashing of events that derailed his legacy, from a DUI, to a felony hit and run, to a USADA failed drug test, brought back old wounds.
Jones has come around on the ad, though, and it’s because he has come to grips with his current state of being, he said Monday during a UFC 214 media conference call.
“The first time I watched it, I was uncomfortable with it, because it showed me talking in 2011 and saying how I would never want to do something that would harm the image of the sport,” Jones said. “That was genuine, man. I never intended on having an image of being the bad guy. I really didn’t. Somewhere along the way I got lost, man. I got caught up in my own sh*t. I started having fun and partying — and still winning. I just took it all for granted. Genuinely, I really wanted to be an inspiration to other people and to inspire people and be a role model.”
The reason why Jones feels differently now is that he believes he still has a chance to be all those things. That starts Saturday night at UFC 214 in Anaheim, Calif., when Jones meets old rival Daniel Cormier, the man he was supposed to fight at UFC 200 last year before the drug test felled him. The main event bout will be for the UFC light heavyweight title Jones once held.
Cormier has spent a lot of time bashing Jones for who he has been outside the Octagon, most of it warranted. But Jones said he doesn’t need to do that — everyone already knows. Just watch the promo.
“It’s all out there in the public,” Jones said. “And that’s a freeing feeling to be looked at as a piece of shit by so many people. And to be able to just be real for yourself and to take responsibility for the things you’ve done wrong. I feel so free, man. It’s a great feeling to be who I am. Jon Jones, the f*ck up. Jon Jones, the great. However, you look at me, it’s just great to be me. Alive. Whether you like me or hate me. It’s just a great feeling to be relevant.”
Jones, 30, plans on changing the story beginning this weekend. It's not over, he said. He plans on beating Cormier, 38, and using what could have been a tragic end to his career as an example for others.
“I think my story is gonna really inspire somebody else who has f*cked up,” Jones said. “It's gonna really inspire somebody else. To realize that it is not over. ‘Man, if Jon Jones can come back from the shit that he's been through and ultimately win and be the champion he’s always been capable of being, [I can do it].’
“I'm glad that I'm used, as a laughingstock or whatever it might be to ultimately inspire, if it's just one person. If there’s just one person that continues to fight because of my life. I'm glad to be in this position.”
Cormier said he appreciated the honesty of the promo and thinks Jones has been redeemed. Just not in the way he and some others might think.
“The redemption is the fact that he gets to go back and compete,” Cormier said. “The redemption isn't the championship anymore. That’s just the reality. The reality is that he gets another opportunity to be a good citizen, to be a good competitor and just a good human being in general.
“But the story of redemption is not getting his hand raised in the Octagon this weekend. Maybe later. But not right now.”
Jones, of course, is confident. He's beaten Cormier before, in January 2015, and says this one will be “even more fun.” Jones is in a good place now, he said. He's made changes in his life. And he’s OK with his past issues — from drug addiction to injuring a pregnant woman in the hit and run — being in the spotlight.
“Somewhere along the line, I just stopped caring,” Jones said. “I started living for myself. And the promo, the promo was honest. Shit, the proof is in the timeline. It’s all right there. And I created that.”