Are the UFC enabling Jon Jones’ bad behaviour, or are the fans to blame?

Jon Jones is undoubtedly one of the greatest fighters in UFC history. The former UFC light heavyweight champion has been part of the promotion for over a decade. He’s defeated greats such as Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson and Lyoto Machida. Outside of a disqualification in 2009, he’s never actually lost a fight.

Despite all of his accomplishments, after his most recent legal issue, an arrest for domestic violence, many UFC fans have called for Jon Jones to be released from the UFC altogether.

So should the UFC really wash their hands of Jon Jones at this stage due to his seeming inability to stay out of trouble outside the octagon? If they refuse to do so, does that really reflect badly on the promotion or does it say more about the UFC’s fans?

It’s a question that’s definitely worth asking.

Jon Jones has found himself in trouble on numerous occasions over the years

Jon Jones' recent arrest is just the tip of an iceberg of controversy
Jon Jones’ recent arrest is just the tip of an iceberg of controversy

For all of his accomplishments in the UFC, it’s safe to say that Jon Jones has also caused plenty of mayhem outside the octagon over the years.

It wasn’t always that way. Jones’ reputation in his early years with the UFC was squeaky-clean. There was no real hint of his dark side prior to a fracas with rival Daniel Cormier prior to their first clash at UFC 182.

However, after that fight, Jones tested positive for cocaine. Later in 2015, he found himself embroiled in controversy when he was involved in a hit-and-run incident that saw him crash his vehicle into a pregnant woman and flee the scene on foot. In the years that have followed, Jon Jones and controversy have gone hand-in-hand.

‘Bones’ has tested positive for banned substances on a further three occasions. He was also busted for driving under the influence twice. In 2019, he was hit with a battery charge following an incident with a waitress. Essentially then, his latest arrest for domestic violence is merely the tip of a seemingly ever-growing iceberg of controversy and unsavory incidents.

For all intents and purposes, it seems that Jon Jones, like Mike Tyson, Paul Gascoigne and Tiger Woods, is amongst a lengthy list of talented athletes who simply can’t keep themselves out of trouble when they’re not competing.

Should Jon Jones’ recent arrest for domestic violence be the final straw for the UFC?

Would the UFC really be willing to cut Jon Jones following his recent arrest?
Would the UFC really be willing to cut Jon Jones following his recent arrest?

The big question on everyone’s lips since Jon Jones’ recent arrest is whether it’ll be enough to force the UFC to release him from his contract. Jones hasn’t actually fought in the UFC since his February 2020 win over Dominick Reyes. He also hasn’t been in the promotion’s good books in recent months.

A mooted move to the heavyweight division has basically been put on pause due to Jones and the UFC seemingly not being on the same page when it comes to his pay. However, it’s probably fair to say that due to his status as one of the UFC’s more proven drawing cards, prior to his recent arrest, it would’ve been a major stunner to see the promotion let him go anywhere. That might change following his most recent arrest, though.

The UFC has always claimed to have a zero-tolerance policy towards domestic violence. In fact, the promotion released lightweight Luis Pena following a domestic violence incident just this week, while Thiago Silva was also released after a similar incident in 2014.

However, the promotion has also employed fighters such as Greg Hardy and Cody East despite a checkered past involving domestic violence, meaning not everything is as black and white as it seems.

When it comes to Jon Jones, UFC president Dana White has stated that the former champion “could” be cut for his recent arrest. However, the fact that his incident happened prior to Pena’s and he has already been cut seems to suggest otherwise.

Why would the UFC not choose to cut their ties with Jon Jones?

Jon Jones is one of the UFC's biggest drawing cards
Jon Jones is one of the UFC’s biggest drawing cards

Simply put, the only reason the UFC would not want to cut Jon Jones from its roster following his recent arrest is money.

Jones is a major drawing card for the promotion, with shows headlined by him regularly drawing upwards of 500k buys on pay-per-view, which brings millions of dollars into the UFC.

Sources: Current estimate for UFC 214 is 850,000 PPV buys. Includes US, Canada Australia + digital platforms like UFC.TV

Sure, the UFC doesn’t necessarily need Jones’ drawing power, as they have other fighters capable of pulling similar numbers. However, should they cut him, the danger would be that he’d sign for a competitor like Bellator MMA and draw big money for them. Worse still, he could promote his own fights, which would probably encourage fellow stars like Conor McGregor to do the same, edging MMA further towards boxing territory.

That, in turn, would loosen the stranglehold the UFC has over the MMA industry. However, should fans really see the UFC as the bad guys in this situation if they do choose to keep Jones on their roster and continue to promote him? Or should it be time for them to look at themselves in the mirror?

Are UFC fans enabling Jon Jones and his bad behaviour?

By continuing to pay to watch him fight, are the UFC's fans enabling Jon Jones and his bad behaviour?
By continuing to pay to watch him fight, are the UFC’s fans enabling Jon Jones and his bad behaviour?

The simple equation here is that the UFC are unlikely to release Jon Jones while he’s capable of drawing money for them or for a competitor. However, the only way Jones can draw money is by ensuring that fans pay to watch him fight.

That, in turn, should raise a major question. After all of the unsavory incidents he’s been involved in, capped off by his recent domestic violence arrest, why would UFC fans want to pay to watch him fight?

⏰ WE GO THE FULL 25 MINUTES. WHAT. A. FIGHT.Has Reyes done enough to dethrone Jones? Sound off! ⬇️ #UFC247

Unfortunately, the same question could’ve been levied at fans, particularly fans of combat sports, on numerous occasions over the years.

Mike Tyson, for instance, was jailed for rape in 1992. Somehow that didn’t stop fans from parting with their money to see him. When he was released from prison, his fights with the likes of Frank Bruno, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis continued to draw millions of dollars.

The same can be said for Floyd Mayweather, who continued to be the biggest draw in combat sports despite his 2012 conviction for domestic violence. Also, Conor McGregor remains the UFC’s biggest drawing card despite numerous legal issues.

Of course, it isn’t up to the fans to change the behavior of athletes such as Jones and Mayweather. Equally, nobody is forcing fans to pay to watch them compete. If anything, it’s massively hypocritical for UFC fans to rail against the promotion for continuing to promote a fighter like Jon Jones, when many of those fans would still pay to watch him fight should he do so for a rival promotion.

The UFC is in the business of promoting fighters and fights, but at the end of the day, the fans are the ones who decide, with their wallets, which fighters become big drawing cards. Therefore, if they really want the UFC to cut their ties with a fighter like Jon Jones, they should simply vote with their wallets and refuse to pay money to watch him fight. If they were to do that, then the chances of the UFC releasing him would increase dramatically.

Of course, they could’ve done the same following Jones’ hit-and-run incident in 2015, but they chose not to.

Unfortunately, based on cases like Tyson and Mayweather’s, it would appear that while fans of combat sports would love for a promotion like the UFC to uphold a moral code and cut ties with any fighter involved in domestic violence, they seemingly don’t believe the same moral code should apply to them.

So should the UFC be blamed for enabling Jones’ behavior outside the octagon? Perhaps. However, the fans should be willing to take their fair share of the blame, too.

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Written by bourbiza

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