Mixed martial arts superstar Jon “Bones” Jones once again found himself on the wrong side of the law last month, sparking a series of events that would lead to the 27-year-old being stripped of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light-heavyweight championship.
The saga, which continues to this day, leaves Jones’ future and professional career in a state of limbo. It also draws some stark comparisons to another professional fighter, one that had his own fair share of controversies in a bygone era. That fighter is Mike Tyson.
Controversy surrounding Jon Jones
After signing with the UFC – the premier promotion in the MMA world – in 2008, Jon Jones quickly emerged as one of the company’s true stars. In 2011, Jones would wrest the light-heavyweight title away from Maurício Rua at the UFC 128 pay-per-view event in Newark, N.J.
At 23-years-old, that victory saw Jones become the company’s youngest ever champion. It also sparked a four-year spell of success in which Jones successfully defended the title- a UFC-record eight times. But controversy lurked just behind the curtain.
During his run as champion, Jones was convicted of DUI after crashing his Bentley into a post in Binghamton, N.Y. He was accused of posting racial slurs on Instagram. He was involved in a hotel lobby brawl with fellow-fighter Daniel Cormier. He tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine. Then, on April 26, he was involved in an alleged hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque, N.M.
Reports stated that a car Jones had been driving struck a vehicle containing a pregnant woman. Jones is alleged to have fled the scene, returned to collect a “handful of cash”, before fleeing again. After a warrant was issued for his arrest the following day, Jones handed himself over to the police.
Jones was subsequently suspended indefinitely by the UFC and stripped of his title.
Comparisons to Mike Tyson
Jones’ current situation recalls that of Mike Tyson. Like Jones, Tyson was a standout in his sport from an early age, becoming the youngest WBA, WBC, and IBF heavyweight champion in history when he was just 20-years-old.
“Iron” Mike continued to have success inside the ring, losing just once – the upset of all upsets against James “Buster” Douglas – in his first 46 professional fights. But behind the scenes, life was very different.
During his early career, Tyson was followed by accusations of spousal abuse. In 1991 he was arrested for rape, and convicted in 1992. He was 27-years-old at the time, the same age Jones is now.
Tyson was freed after three years in prison but controversy continued to follow in his wake. He famously bit the ear of Evander Holyfield in 1997 and in 2006 and 2007 was convicted of DUI and felony possession of cocaine. Meanwhile, scuffles and unrest seemed to follow the former champ around, while alcoholism nearly brought him down for good.
What’s next for Jones?
Today, Tyson seems to have reigned in his troubles. At least that’s the impression you get from the outside. His mental health issues seem to be under control, which can be only a good thing. But is the path he’s trodden one that Jon Jones is likely to follow?
At the time of writing, Jones remains suspended from the UFC. He continues to await trial for felony charges, charges that could result in prison time. He continues to look into a future filled with uncertainty.
Jones would do well to take stock of Tyson’s story and see if there is a lesson to be learned. If reports are to be believed, it seems that, at the very least, Jones needs some serious help with substance abuse. Only with a clean body and mind will he be able to return to action and ascend again to those once-lofty heights he enjoyed as champion of the world.