The Curious Case(s) of Jon Jones

Jon Jones
At the risk of piling on and making points that are already being made ad infinitum in the MMA-sphere, what if we played curious and tried to learn something here? What if we tried to get something productive out of the latest drama in the news with Jon Jones? What if instead of expressing disappointment from any ivory towers, claiming from any crystal ball that we saw something coming, or pontificating; what if instead of engaging in mere tabloid fodder we could apply a couple of real lessons purely from the martial arts aspect of the situation? Is that too much to ask from a sport where the coach of its biggest star – a star with plenty of less- than-virtuous moments in his own story – wrote a book called "Win or Learn"?

For this discussion, the domestic abuse situation with its clear importance is going to be set aside. This is not done to lessen the gravity of that specific part of the story or subject, but rather because the facts at the time of writing are unclear enough nor is it material the main thesis here.

There is an element in the account and reports by the police involved though that might be a catalyst for examination. Comic book clichés aside, it really is true that with great power proficiency in genuine martial arts training for real world combat situations comes great responsibility. Jones at the time of his arrest (during the week he and his previous opponent Alexander Gustafsson were being honored by the UFC Hall of Fame for their five-round classic battle back at UFC 165 in 2013) said something in an apparently joking way that officers on scene reported thusly: "he would like to take us all on and see what we could do." This hardly reads like a joke when you consider he was said to be intoxicated and with his status as one of – if not the – greatest to ever compete in sanctioned hand to hand combat.

Jon Jones Conviction


With the cultural, and some might say tectonic speed, shift in the last few years in the discussion of appropriate use of force, facts coming to light from this case seem to put on display a real-life example of the philosophical quandary about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. With zero levity, Jones is said to have head-butted the hood of a patrol car in frustration and dented it and chipped the paint. Again, this is very much no joke. What might have happened if Jon tried to resist and use force with his abilities?

Back in the 1980s and a while after there was a proliferation of Martial Arts/action/military/cop movies for better or worse – plenty of worse. The stereotypical idea being of course that the action hero was dangerous to society because of his training and/or emotional instability. A whole franchise is named Lethal Weapon for this very purpose! To make sure we know how bad our good guy could be. Jon Jones has proven without question that were it not agreed upon by him and those with whom he has shared the cage in sanctioned combat, he is indeed a lethal weapon. What if Jon wanted to see what he could do with Lyoto Machida when Big John McCarthy wasn't there to call off that fight? It is not lost on those who watched that event live that Jon's coach had to remind him to go show the former champ respect after taking his consciousness. Big John was the difference there between lethal and a win in a competition. Now, with this latest in the saga, Jones has once again danced very close to the edge of what might have been him proving it – only, this time, outside of a sporting event. It looks to have been his self-control that is the difference and many agree that is in limited supply.

If this were fiction, this would be the point where we see the out-of-control bad/good guy taken away in cuffs to learn his lesson in a rock quarry, temple, or mountain cabin. To exorcise his demons and channel his dangerous abilities in order to be a weapon of good. Nearly all Martial Arts trainers teach their students that the tools they are learning are to only ever be used for good and to protect. It is the beauty of the Gentle Art Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for example when properly executed that it eliminates threats, protects the practitioner, and everyone can walk away wiser at the resolution of the conflict.

Can students as well as fans of combat sports (including hopefully Jon himself) take to heart this very practical lesson playing out in MMA headlines? Can it be mined for life-lessons? Can it be seen that the Martial Arts can lead to greatness – Hall of Fame worthy greatness – but also be terrifying when used irresponsibly? So much of the unfortunate stigma associated with the fighting arts has been removed over these past few years. Curiosity has to ask if Jones will emerge the reformed good guy in this story. Time will tell.

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