Jon Jones vs. Jon Jones: UFC Star On His Greatest Opponent – Himself
Jon Jones stretches out on a second-floor couch inside Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is just 28, but fight posters from his already historic career are plastered on the walls around the gym, arguably the greatest MMA camp on the planet.
For most of the afternoon, he has been jovial, laughing with sparring partners between flurries of punches and lashes of whip-like kicks. But now, perhaps aware of his surroundings – and his legacy – Jones’ voice quivers as he talks about the lowest point of his life, when he was living in a haze of alcohol and marijuana that led to a hit-and-run accident last year. That accident, he says, changed his life forever; it made him want to get clean and give up the fame and the fortune he had amassed. It would not be the last time he had thoughts like this.
“I wanted to retire. I wanted to quit. I wanted to go away. I wanted to move to Mexico. I wanted to erase my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook so no one would be able to see me,” he says. “I wanted to never do an interview again. I wanted my fans to think, ‘What ever happened to Jon Jones?’ I wanted to disappear from celebrity life all together.”
It’s an important day for Jones. He just completed his 72nd and final court-mandated public-speaking appearance, meaning he can completely focus on his next fight. Once upon a time, his opponent was UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier, but after a recent injury, it’s middling contender Ovince Saint Preux instead.
Cormier, however, is Jones’ biggest rival. And more important, he holds the belt Jones never lost in the Octagon.
Jones was stripped of the Light Heavyweight title after that hit-and-run accident last April, which earned him 18 months of supervised probation and the six-dozen speaking appearances he’d finished about an hour ago. But no jail time.
Asked about the morning of April 26, Jones says he doesn’t remember how or why he ran the red light; he says his brain “took a time-out from reality” and that he can’t recall the moment his SUV made contact with another car in the three-vehicle accident. He only remembers panicking – overcome by the sudden thought that he could lose everything in the blink of an eye.
Turns out, that’s what happened. He was stripped of the title he’d held for four years, suspended indefinitely from the UFC and watched his most prominent sponsor, Reebok – along with several others – walk away. In his mind it was all a blessing in disguise, a wake-up call that forced him to shape up and recognize his potential as perhaps the greatest fighter to ever live. But was it really?
His actions since that awakening tell two conflicting tales.
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