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Hopefully, Jon Jones chooses to fight again. He’s a brilliant talent, by far the best I’ve ever seen, and it would be a shame if mixed martial arts fans never got to see him compete again.
It’s hardly a given, though, that the former UFC light heavyweight champion will resume his career as if nothing happened in the wake of a plea deal he reached Tuesday with a New Mexico court regarding an April automobile accident in Albuquerque.
Jones was accused of leaving the scene after the rental car he was driving slammed into a vehicle driven by a pregnant woman.
The plea enables Jones to avoid jail time and, if he meets the terms of his probation, will not put a felony conviction on his record.
Fortunately, the woman has fully recovered from the broken arm she suffered in the accident and sustained no permanent injuries.
This wasn’t Jones’ first problem. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated when he rammed a car he was driving into a tree near his home in Broome County, N.Y.
And shortly after his last bout, a typically brilliant victory over Daniel Cormier in January at UFC 182, it was learned that he had tested positive for cocaine before the bout. He was able to compete then because cocaine is not banned under World Anti-Doping Agency rules for out of competition.
So he has had his share of issues, though I suspect that much of it comes due to an inability to handle the scrutiny of being in such an intense spotlight.
[ThePostGame: When Ronda Rousey fought men for Frappuccino money]
He’s a small-town guy who nearly overnight turned into the biggest star in his sport at the peak of the UFC’s popularity.
Who really knows why Jones had the problems he did? He certainly isn’t the first to struggle in the limelight brought on by athletic success.
While he’s extraordinarily fortunate that no one suffered any truly serious injuries in either of his two auto accidents, they’re troubling incidents in and of themselves.
Jones has had it rough in the media, to be sure. He received plenty of glowing, positive media attention, but there was also an inordinate amount of negativity as well as things that were unfair and outright incorrect that were written about him.
He was never a fan favorite for reasons that, at least at first, weren't clear.
Whatever the reason for his problems and the fan dislike, hopefully this plea deal will be an opportunity for a reset on all sides.
Jones needs to do what is right for him, and not what others wish for him. If he chooses not to fight, he shouldn’t fight. He should move on and find a way to live a normal, happy life with his family.
But he deserves the opportunity to fight again if that’s what he chooses. The UFC announced Tuesday that a Las Vegas-based law firm will review Jones’ court case and make a recommendation about his return to competition.
Jones violated the UFC’s code of conduct, but it seems that time served, in essence, is plenty of punishment.
He hasn’t fought since January and was stripped of his championship. He lost sponsors as a result of the accident.
All of that, of course, is his fault. He’d still be the champion and he’d still have his sponsors if he hadn’t messed up.
But he’s paid a big price. It might take some time before sponsors want to associate with him again, and that’s up to them. Jones surely understands that actions have consequences and that his actions in getting two DWIs in a three-year span may make him toxic for a while to sponsors.
There is little point, though, for the UFC to continue to penalize him.
If he fails to comply with the terms of his deal – he’s got to make 72 community service-type appearances – then the UFC can take action again at that point.
But Jones has already missed two paychecks. Had the incident not occurred, he would have fought Anthony Johnson in May for the title. Instead, Cormier replaced him and won the vacant belt.
Now, on Saturday, Cormier will meet Alex Gustafsson in the first defense of his title. It’s fair to assume that A) Jones would have defeated Johnson in May and B) would be the one making his title defense on Saturday.
Jones makes several million dollars per fight so, when combined with the loss of sponsorship income, he’s suffered greatly.
Hopefully Jones returns to the sport that made him rich and famous. He’s a wonderful fighter who has much to offer.
Penalizing him any longer would seem petty.
Let him fight, if that’s what he wants to do.