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Jon Jones is arguably the biggest waste of talent in all of sports, and that’s not hyperbole. At the age of 29, Jones will squander yet another year on the sidelines after the United States Anti-Doping Agency levied a one-year suspension against him for failing a drug test. The often-troubled fighter may never headline a major pay-per-view card again.
To see a fighter of Jones’ caliber throw away his best years over silly things such as recreational drugs and flat-out recklessness is sad. Name another athlete who was recognized as the best in the world, proved it and then squandered it in a fit of one careless act after another. If you’re answer is Mike Tyson, he was not in the running for the Greatest of All-Time tag. Jones was in that conversation because of the sheer dominance he showed over virtually every opponent with whom he stepped into the Octagon. During his tenure as light heavyweight champion, the only fighter who appeared to be in the G.O.A.T. conversation was Georges St. Pierre.
Yet here he is, sidelined once again, this time for what he arrogantly called “dick pills.” That caused him to be yanked from what was then the biggest Ultimate Fighting Championship card in history; and he appears to be taking it all in stride despite being confident that he’d have his suspension shortened. Jones changed his avatar to the infamous Jordan Crying Meme, posted a video of his daughters doing The Mannequin Challenge and accepted a grappling match with Dan Henderson at Submission Underground 2. Doesn’t seem like he’s that concerned, does it?
Where does he go from here? He’ll be 30 years old when he steps back into the Octagon -- provided there are no other screw-ups along the way -- and the light heavyweight division will likely be much different than the one he ruled as champion. Could he come back and resume his legacy? Sure, but it’s not likely considering his current track record. It feels like he didn’t take his last suspension seriously and was immediately thrust back into the title picture. That shouldn’t happen this time around. He should be required to fight his way back to the top, not necessarily because he needs to prove he can win but to prove he can stay clean for a couple of fights before challenging for the title he never lost in a fight.
As Jones sat on the sidelines and watched Conor McGregor rake in Scrooge McDuck bags of dough as the headliner of UFC 205, the former light heavyweight champion should have been disgusted with himself. The reality is that McGregor has been a blessing to the UFC and helped overshadow Jones’ numerous missteps. Without McGregor and Ronda Rousey, there would be a lot more attention on Jones and even more pressure on the UFC to deal with this problem and how it affects its bottom line.
Fortunately, the Irishman has happily taken over as the face of the UFC. To be honest, Jones should be in this role. After his vitriolic feud with Daniel Cormier last year, it appeared that we were going to get a version of Jones that was a little more volatile and, ultimately, a little more appealing to the mainstream. His dominance over the sport could have seen him become one of the biggest draws in the UFC. Alas, he pissed it all away with reckless behavior.
The time that he will lose should set him straight, but we just had this discussion a year ago when Jones was suspended before a scheduled fight with Anthony Johnson. Since then, he’s showed an utter lack of humility and has refused to get his act together.
Who will Jones be when he returns? Better yet, how much longer will the UFC tolerate this type of behavior, and how do you reel him in? UFC President Dana White is right by saying he can’t be trusted to headline an event, but will he stand by his words? What exactly do you do with a troubled talent that mows down the competition? Sooner or later, it has to even out. Either Jones corrects his bad behavior and continues to dominate or his bad behavior directly affects his performance. Either way, something has to be done. He’s far too talented to become an ESPN “30 for 30” episode before he turns 35. However, if he doesn’t correct his life path, he’ll certainly find himself there as one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- wastes of talent in sports.
Andreas Hale is the editorial content director of 2DopeBoyz.com, co-host of the boxing, MMA and pro wrestling podcast “The Corner” and a regular columnist for Sherdog.com. You can follow on Twitter for his random yet educated thoughts on combat sports, music, film and popular culture.