Regaining the UFC Light Heavyweight championship was a crucial moment for Jon Jones’ legacy. However, winning back the title may not go down as his most memorable experience from UFC 214.
Just minutes after his third-round knockout of Daniel Cormier to reclaim the 205-pound belt he was stripped of more than two years prior Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) was taken backstage and introduced to one of the world’s most revered celebrities.
Jones met former WWE superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is a longtime supporter of MMA, for the first time. He says the encounter left him fairly awestruck.
“That was the first time I met Dwayne and it was such a great moment,” Jones tells Rolling Stone. “‘The Rock,’ he didn’t disappoint. He was exactly what I was hoping he would be. He was exactly the way he appears to be on TV; just a genuine, good dude. It was a highlight. It was even more special than the fight to have such a great, American hero in the audience to watch.”
During the meeting (some of which was documented in the Instagram video above), “The Rock” told Jones how his trying circumstances prior to capturing the title from his greatest rival Cormier at UFC 214 was nothing short of inspirational.
Jones endured a turbulent 31-month period between his first victory over Cormier at UFC 182 in January 2015 and the rematch with “DC” at UFC 214. “Bones” couldn’t escape controversy. From testing positive for cocaine to his involvement in a hit-and-run to being suspended one year for banned substances, there was time he seemed destined to serve as yet another sports example of someone caught in a colossal fall from grace due to poor decision-making and mishandling fame.
The return to prominence showed Jones’ entire career story is far from being told. The 30-year-old has expressed his desire to not be a “What-if?” story, but rather someone who overcame a period of hardship to ultimately meet their potential.
“I feel like I have a new beginning,” Jones says. “I went through such a dark period with depression and everything. Now the light is here at the end of the tunnel and I feel like I’m leaving the past behind me. I’m erasing everything I’ve done before and I feel like this is the start to a new career, a new championship. I want to be a better champion than I was in the past.”
“The Rock,” who is currently listed as the highest paid actor in the world, told Jones witnessing his turnaround provides positively to his life and others. Jones knows he’s been making the right choices since his latest incident more than a year ago, but to get validation of that fact from such an prominent figure was a moment he refused to take lightly.
“It was unbelievable,” Jones says. “It was just uplifting and encouraging to hear compliments from ‘The Rock.’ My story is inspiring and he knows it. ‘The Rock’ is one of the most lovable people in the world. So, when he tells you that your story is an inspiration to others, you believe it. I’m going to be used by others.”