UFC needs to strip Jon Jones of his title and pull him from UFC 187

Kevin Iole

For years, it seemed plainly obvious that the only fighter who would able to beat Jon Jones was, in fact, Jon Jones.

Perhaps not all that surprisingly given his record, the UFC light heavyweight champion and now accused hit-and-run driver is, in fact, doing exactly that.

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He's throwing away a brilliant career and potentially millions of dollars.

There has been a disturbing pattern in Jones' behavior, and Sunday's incident in Albuquerque, N.M., in which he has been charged with a felony for leaving the scene of an accident involving death or personal injuries, is only the latest example.

Jones, of course, is presumed innocent and must be proven guilty in a court of law.

But the UFC owes him no such due process, and should immediately strip him of its championship and pull him from his May 23 fight against Anthony Johnson in the main event of UFC 187 in what was shaping up as one of the best cards in recent memory.

Jones pleaded guilty to DUI in 2012 in Binghamton, N.Y. In 2014, he got into a misguided brawl in the lobby of the MGM Grand during a photo opportunity to promote an upcoming fight with Daniel Cormier.

He showed a great inability to control his emotions not only when he aggressively went after Cormier but then when he let out a guttural roar after the brawl was broken up. UFC security chief Joe Williams wound up in the hospital as a result and Jones is simply lucky that nothing worse occurred.

Then, on Dec. 4, Jones failed a random drug test given to him by the Nevada Athletic Commission, less than a month before he was to fight Cormier at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Jon Jones punches at Daniel Comier during his last title defense in January. (Getty)
Jon Jones punches at Daniel Comier during his last title defense in January. (Getty)

It was almost incomprehensible that an athlete of Jones' stature would be using cocaine during his training camp, 30 days from a fight.

And then there was Sunday's incident, in which a car allegedly driven by Jones ran a red light and broadsided a car driven by a pregnant woman, according to the police report.

He left the scene, but only after returning to grab money from the vehicle. Police reported finding a marijuana pipe in the rental vehicle.

Unfortunately for Jones, an off-duty police officer who happens to be a UFC fan saw Jones hop a fence and run away. The officer, identified in the police report as Officer Sullivan, was asked by investigating officer Tommy L. Benavidez, how he was sure he knew it was Jones who was fleeing the scene.

Sullivan replied, "I watched UFC all the time, I know what Jon Jones looks like."

After being unable to make contact with Jones or one of his attorneys for more than a day, arrangements were being made late Monday afternoon for Jones to turn himself in.

The legal process will play out and the state, if it chooses to pursue the case, will need to prove its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

The UFC has no such duty and should strip Jones of its championship immediately. It is a privilege, not a right, to hold the belt and Jones long ago violated that privilege.

He's had a series of run-ins and incidents and has gotten off incredibly light. He has never been forced to miss a fight and has only received minor fines for his various infractions.

Now, a pregnant woman suffered a fractured wrist and forearm, which upgraded the charge from misdemeanor to felony.

Drug paraphernalia was found in the vehicle, and Jones allegedly fled the scene of an accident.

The fact that he didn't turn himself in immediately when he knew, or reasonably should have known, that police were looking for him means that the police will assume the worst. They'll assume he stalled so that whatever he may have taken would leave his body. They'll assume he was attempting to keep something from them by fleeing the scene and then not immediately turning himself in.

If the UFC strips him of his title and he's proven innocent later, the UFC can easily rectify the situation by putting him into its next title fight.

It would be a symbolic gesture to strip him, but an important measure of symbolism. The UFC will be saying that it meant it when it instituted a Fighter Code of Conduct, and that it's not going to let Jones slide because he's a great fighter and a big moneymaker.

The UFC can support Jones if they choose, and can offer legal or other assistance. A good employer stands behind its employees when they're in their greatest need, and providing aid or advice would be doing just that.

Jon Jones smiles during a press conference. (Getty)
Jon Jones smiles during a press conference. (Getty)

But they certainly can't condone the many circumstances that disturbingly continue to pile up around this man.

They've made excuses for his prickly personality and often difficult ways in the past. They unbelievably defended the fact that he went into drug rehabilitation for one day after the positive cocaine test, as if he were somehow magically cured.

They've turned their heads and pretended they haven't seen his many social media blunders or his difficult, at best, interactions with mixed martial arts media.

More than anything, this seems to be a cry for help on Jones' part. He's a wonderful athlete, but the pressure of living up to what he seems to think he has to be appears to be wearing on him.

Jones often speaks of his Christian faith and wears a Bible verse on his fight shorts. He wants to be a role model, but then behaves like anything but one.

He looks like a hypocrite when he quotes the Bible in one setting and then runs up a long collection of misdeeds.

The legal situation will play out, and the UFC is reserving comment until it knows more.

But the following words SHOULD be coming out of the Zuffa headquarters, and pronto:

"We have stripped Jon Jones of our light heavyweight title and pulled him from his fight on May 23 at UFC 187 with Anthony Johnson."

Anything less would be a farce, and completely unacceptable.

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