Jon Jones, UFC 232: How Do You Measure Tainted Greatness?

All Champion. All Anti-Hero. Jon Jones is a champion again.

As a result of finishing Alexander Gustafsson off in the third round at UFC 232, Jones has reclaimed the Light Heavyweight strap. Immediately after winning, Jones indignantly called out Daniel Cormier for relinquishing the belt he’d just won.

“I know there’s a guy who’s been calling himself champ-champ. I mean, what guy just gives up his belt because somebody made it back home? Daddy’s home, DC. Prove to the fans you’re the champ-champ. Come get a taste, I’m here. Come get your belt back. It’ll be waiting right here.”

Cormier took to Twitter to express his feelings on Jones’ win.

Jon Jones said that he is a product of a group of mighty men that stand beside him. Trainers Greg Jackson, Mike Winklejohn, and Israel Martinez are some of the most well-known in the MMA industry.

Already, Jones is regarded as one of the best fighters in MMA history. Still, there are blemishes on his character record. Cocaine metabolites in his system. Wrapping his Bentley around a pole while under the influence. Hit-and-run incident against a pregnant woman in Albuquerque that stripped his belt and suspended him from the UFC.

Then Jones was suspended for one year by USADA and stripped of his interim title. He became the first fighter in UFC history to be stripped of a title twice.

Jones finally faced his nemesis Cormier at UFC 214. In the cage, he defeated him via a classic knockout. Out of the cage, Jones defeated himself testing positive for Turinabol, an anabolic steroid.

UFC President Dana White stripped him of the Light Heavyweight championship and turned it over to Daniel Cormier.

A Matter Of Trust

About a week ago, trace amounts of the Turbinol reemerged in Jones’ system. The Nevada State Athletic Commission refused Jones a license to fight. As a result, Dana White controversially moved the fight to Los Angeles.

As expected Jones won.

Still, the fans are split over the troubled and polarizing career of an athletic savant. How do you rationalize greatness when it is tainted? When forgiveness has been doled out repetitively, when have the fans had enough?

The UFC sold for $4 billion dollars making it the biggest sale of a sports franchise in history. The raised profile from this valuation puts the athletes in full center of major league level scrutiny.

It is reminiscent of Barry Bonds‘ legacy, rife with shattered records and a skewed perspective. Homerun stats aside, Bonds will forever be remembered for the BALCO scandal and the cloud hovering over his performance.

Doubt shrouds legacies and Jones now lives in that space. Hoisting the Light Heavyweight gold, he will always be mistrusted, always an eternal brat propped up by the machine.

Legacy is the end game for any high-level athlete and so is the Hall of Fame. Bonds was not elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and 2018 is his sixth of 10 years of eligibility.

When you are the best without the trust of the fans, how will you be remembered? Instead of goading Daniel Cormier, Jon Jones should ask himself this question internally.

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