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Jon Jones asked to leave Jackson Wink MMA; coach asks him to ‘stop drinking’ but leaves open return

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For now, Jon Jones is out at the Jackson Wink MMA gym that shaped him into a dominant octagon force.

Jackson Wink co-founder Mike Winkeljohn on Wednesday told The MMA Hour that Jones will not be allowed to train at the famed Albuquerque, N.M., gym unless he quits drinking. He is not forbidden from working with individual Jackson Wink coaches outside of the gym, the coach added.

“I just had a conversation with him,” Winkeljohn said. “I said, ‘Jon, here’s the deal. You’re like my little brother. You have to stop drinking and fix these things for a certain period of time until you come back to the gym.’

“So at the moment, he’s out of the gym. He’s not allowed to come in the gym. I felt like I had to do that, because ignoring it and expecting different results, as they say, is insanity. He’s got a lot of yes people around him that won’t tell him the truth. He might hate me for it, but I’ll tell him the truth.”

Jones could not immediately be reached for comment via his manager. Winkeljohn said the ex-champ “was disappointed” in the decision and “hoping we could talk it out,” but added, “we’ve done that before in the past.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Jones reacted to the news via Twitter (the original tweet has since been deleted):

The temporary split arrives two weeks after Jones’ latest arrest, which took place just hours after he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame for his 2013 fight with Alexander Gustafsson. Jones was booked on a misdemeanor charge of battery domestic violence and a felony charge of injury and tampering to a vehicle after a domestic violence call to the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Hotel security saw Jones’ longtime fiancée Jessie Moses bleeding from the nose and mouth, and one of Jones’ three children asked for police to be called. She later told police Jones had gotten physical with her in the hotel room. When Jones was detained, he became “irate” and allegedly smashed his head into the hood of a police car. He was freed less than 24 hours after being arrested after posting $8,000 bond.

Winkeljohn said the details of Jones’ latest brush with the law motivated him to take action with the fighter, who became one of the team’s biggest and most successful stars after joining in 2009.

“I’m very disappointed,” Winkeljohn said. “It’s tough. The hardest part was when you hear that his daughters says you’ve got to call the police officers. I’ve got three daughters, I have a wife. I teach women’s self-defense. It just makes it hard when he keeps getting in trouble.”

UFC President Dana White said he would let the legal process play out before making a decision on Jones’ fate with the promotion. At the Hall of Fame induction, Jones estimated he would return to the cage in the second quarter of 2022. His new manager, former Golden Boy executive Richard Schaefer, said he had turned a new leaf with UFC execs after Jones split with longtime management firm First Round Management in April. Jones has been inactive amid a stalemate with the UFC over financial demands connected to a move up to heavyweight, where a showdown with champ Francis Ngannou could await.

Winkeljohn said it took him a while to get ahold of Jones to break the news of his decision, noting “we’ve kind of butted heads in the past,” but adding “he knew I was going to be the hard one at the gym.”

Despite the temporary split, Winkeljohn was optimistic about Jones turning his life around and returning to the fold.

“In my heart, gosh, that guy’s capable of greatness,” the coach said. “And I’m not just talking about fighting. In my heart, I hope he comes back, wins the heavyweight title, stops drinking, goes forward and goes on to bigger things. He’s so charismatic and so dang smart. He can sit down and break down fights; he can break down a lot of things in life. He’s capable of doing much bigger things than just this MMA world. So that’s where we’re at right now, and we’ll see what happens in the future. I hope for the best.”

Jones joined the team in 2009 after an extended stint with Team Bombsquad in Ithaca, N.Y. He was one of several high-profile stars to work with co-founders Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson, and his arrival led to the departure of one of the team’s early stars, former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who later fell to Jones in a grudge match at UFC 145.

Along with Winkeljohn and Jackson, Jones’ team at the gym includes wrestling coach Izzy Martinez, striking coach Brandon Gibson, and jiu-jitsu coach Roberto Alencar. The former champ regularly credited his team with his success. Over the past year, his team was focused on helping him move up to the heavyweight division.

For now, Jones will go it without Winkeljohn. The coach declined to name any specific benchmarks the fighter needs to meet before being allowed at Jackson Wink. If he doesn’t meet them, however, that may signal the end of Jones’ time there.

“He’s like my little brother, and you’ve just got to tell him the truth sometimes,” Winkeljohn said. “I’m hoping after a certain period of time he wants to come back to the the gym and does it. But even if he doesn’t come back, I’m OK with it in my own heart. He might go on and win the heavyweight title, I take myself out of a little bit of money, whatever. That’s just not where my values are at right now.

“I just want to set the precedent for the rest of my guys and for people as a whole. Look, I’m all about forgiveness, but let’s go forward. Let’s fix these things.”

“It needs to be out there, because I wanted the women we teach in our self-defense to know, ‘Hey, I’ve got your back, too,’” Winkeljohn added later. “Jon would never do anything bad if he wasn’t drunk. But with that being said, he’s got to fix it.”