A lot has been written and said about the UFC’s decision to act as judge, jury and executioner in the case of Jon Jones. But were they right?
Arguing for the defence, Jones is the subject of allegations at present. He may have been charged with a Felony, but he hasn’t been convicted, he hasn’t pleaded guilty and no punishment has been made formal, so what happened to innocent until proven guilty? Surely the UFC should have just benched Jones, parked him in the stands until such time that due process has taken its course and the legal system has returned a verdict. After all, this is America.
Driving on a disqualified license, DUI, positive test for cocaine metabolites, brawling at a press conference. These are just some of the [virtually] unpunished acts of the UFC’s biggest draw, and brightest star. While abusers of marijuana are suspended for a year, while racists and wife beaters are (quite rightly) terminated from their contracts what message does it send out that the biggest name in MMA can act with impunity?
As I wrote here on the day that the news broke, updated the following day and a good 4 days before the UFC actually acted on this news, I genuinely do not think that White, Fertitta et al were left with any viable option. With the sport still illegal in New York, and pending legislation looking to overturn this how can they justify the actions of the man who is the poster boy of MMA. This is quite literal too, type in MMA, UFC or similar and the first name that crops up is Jones. On the front of magazines, the EA Sports game, anywhere that the search is synonymous with Mixed Martial Arts in fact.
What next for Jones? His friend and Manager, Malki Kawa, suggests that he may never return to MMA or the UFC, that he feels betrayed by the actions taken and that he should have had his day in court. Perhaps, but professional athletes are not exactly known for their humility and ability to accept criticism. I would daresay that 6 months on the sidelines, legal matters closed and a spell in rehab or jail – at the time of writing I suspect that a spell in jail will be more character building than rehab – and a chance to fight for the belt he vacated. Disappearing into the night doesnt seem viable, and the ego of the man wouldnt let him fight anywhere but the very top table.
As for the UFC, I think they should be commended. In times of dwindling PPV numbers, of the injury ‘curse’ and the first decline in numbers for over 10 years, to lock away the goose that laid the golden egg takes balls and is a gamble that hopefully pays off for them.