Jon Jones was misguided in UFC Jacksonville tweets, but is he welcoming the role of the heel?
In an episode of UFC Unfiltered in January, 24-year-old UFC lightweight Bryce Mitchell said his momentary Twitter ban – put in place “a few years before” he joined the UFC – left him feeling liberated. He was banned for criticizing the US government and revealed that nowadays he ignores abuse, trolls, and drama when scrolling through social media, preferring to concentrate on simple pleasures such as training, fishing, and playing video games.
The Arkansas prospect appeared on the podcast only 18 months into his stint with the UFC yet came across as a grounded and humble character, but that’s in contrast to the UFC light heavyweight champion and 12-year-veteran of the promotion, Jon Jones.
On Wednesday, Jones mocked Anthony Smith for being burglarized when he tweeted a since-deleted post: “Good thing Glover is not on the hunt for a new TV,” referring to Smith’s defeat to Glover Teixeira at UFC Jacksonville. Jones’s morals and decision-making were already under the spotlight thanks to a litany of doping suspensions and arrests – his latest brush with the law came in March when he was arrested for DUI and negligent use of a firearm.
Jones’ tweet was silly, pretty harmless in the long-run – much more harmless than anyone driving a car while inebriated. His tweet was the kind of toilet humor comedians build careers upon, but the issue here is that Jones had made yet another error of judgment, and his subsequent deleting of the tweet left only a veneer of remorse.
The 205-pound king later posted: “Who all captured the deleted tweet of the night?” As Mitchell attested, social media is a space where jabs on a keyboard are amplified into infinity, and digital insults are beamed globally in the blink of an eye. Removing the tweet was never going to help, and all Jones did was pour fuel on the fire, reinforcing the narrative that he’ll never learn or take responsibility for his actions.
As such, Jones’ brand, reputation, and PR standing will take another blow. He added: “Haha it’s just rough entertainment at the end of the day. We are all always talking crap to each other and teasing each other. Pretty sure most these guys have tough skin, I know my skins become like an armadillo since joining the Ufc.”
Jones’s laser-focus and tunnel vision have to be mentioned despite his ignorance of right and wrong. He bested Alexander Gustafsson in the consensus greatest UFC light heavyweight title fight in 2014, despite admitting to partying and barely training in the lead-up to his sixth title defense. He also overturned Daniel Cormier twice, managing to box and move to a gameplan regardless of the bitter trash talk between the pair.
Once he steps into the Octagon he seems to be able to block out his demons and put on an exhilarating exhibition of elbows, spinning attacks, and myriad kicks. It’s away from the cage where he falters, though. Despite a history of fines, community service assignments, and supervised probation orders – the latter of which he is still under, owing to his offenses in March – he always seems to take a wrong turn.
His jibes at Smith pale in insignificance to some of his other crimes yet you’d hope his team at First Round Management – who also represent Mitchell – would warn Jones about the inane nature of his tweeting.
The Jackson Wink MMA Academy man has also waned in popularity and was booed after his decisions over Thiago Santos, in July, and Dominick Reyes, in February, the second instance perhaps due to the hotly-contested verdict. Still, he shrugged his shoulders at the haters and has, in fact, embraced his role as a heel. After all, although his victory over Reyes was based on escapism rather than conviction, he always finds a way to win, so why should he care if fans don’t like him? He’s in the cage to get the victory, not to take in adulation.
Teixeira criticized Jones for his tweet on Wednesday night, speaking at a time when Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje – like Teixeira and Smith – had put on such thrillers without a hint of hostility, bad taste or ill-feeling. That’s the antithesis of Jones, though, the archetypal villain. Perhaps he will always seek controversy, just for the sake of it.
With 26 wins, backed up by the longest win-streak in UFC light heavyweight history (13), Jones has a long way to go until his public image is as glowing as his MMA ledger. Maybe his crimes and tweets speak of a flawed character, but he can certainly look to the likes of Mitchell, Teixeira, and Smith etc. for a dose of humility.
Alistair Hendrie is a freelance writer for The Body Lock MMA. He has previously written for Mirror.co.uk and Fighters Only. Check out his Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain, featuring interviews with Rosi Sexton, Joanne Calderwood and more.